A listening post monitoring public education and teachers’ unions.

If At First You Don’t Secede…

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Mar• 23•15

I wonder if anyone has researched the history of unions leaving unions. There are some meaty stories, from Change to Win leaving the AFL-CIO, to FMPR in Puerto Rico, to more recent instances like UHPA in Hawaii, and failed attempts in places like Dearborn, Wicomico County, Modesto and Oregon.

We have a couple of new divorce cases on the docket. The Grand Rapids Community College Alliance of Support Professionals voted to disaffiliate from the Michigan Education Association, and will continue as a local-only union.

And the Yakima Education Association extended its years-long battle with the Washington Education Association over its desire to withdraw from the regional UniServ, WEA MidState. Some NEA state affiliates have an additional layer of governance between local and state. Yakima’s complaint is that the services it receives from the region are not worth what it costs in dues money.

What is unusual about this case is that WEA is threatening to disaffiliate Yakima, not the other way around. I wonder if Yakima’s officers responded with “Please don’t throw us into the briar patch.”

Back in 2013, the WEA board ruled Yakima “out of compliance with the minimum standards of affiliation” and later banned its delegates from participating in the state union’s representative assembly. But WEA doesn’t have any useful intermediate measures to use against Yakima. It can ineffectually complain, or it can kick Yakima out… and lose almost 1,000 members.

Unfortunately for Yakima, WEA does have one tool: the big hammer. A state takeover is the preferred method of dealing with recalcitrant locals, so don’t be surprised if it happens again.


NEA Leadership Summit Sessions

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Mar• 20•15

NEA held one of its Leadership Summits in Anaheim a couple of weeks ago, and since you are dying to know what was discussed, I have posted a description of the breakout sessions on EIA’s Declassifed page.


Shot Across the Bow

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Mar• 19•15

Barring some unforeseen legal reversal, it is very likely that Teamsters Local 14 will succeed in acquiring representation rights for support workers in Las Vegas’ school district. It will unseat the Education Support Employees Association, which is affiliated with NEA and the Nevada State Education Association.

Despite the daunting correlation of forces, NEA and NSEA will not meekly allow the Teamsters to appropriate thousands of their members. The Teamsters must know this, and they have moved preemptively.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that the Teamsters “recently filed a public records request for the names, job classification and work location for members of the Clark County Education Association, the union representing the district’s 17,000 teachers.” This is usually done in preparation for an organizing drive.

There is little chance of the Teamsters making headway with the teachers (though they do have one success story), but I think the move is an effort to send a message to NEA and NSEA. It looks like a diversionary tactic, in order to prevent the teachers’ union from concentrating its substantial resources on the support employee battle. Let the custodians go quietly, and we will leave the teachers alone.

I don’t think it will have an effect, because even if it loses the bus drivers of Las Vegas, NEA still has more than 300,000 education support employees across the country to think about. It can’t allow a clean blueprint for exiting NEA. So it will fight.


Fear Is the Path to the Dark Side

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Mar• 18•15

I received this communication the other day. I’ve sanitized it because I don’t want anyone to get into trouble, but I just had to share it with you.

Hi Mike!

I’m reaching out because I think you’d be a GREAT fit for a Research Director position I’m working to fill for a union that’s doing amazing work here in [redacted]. I know you might not be in the market yourself, but perhaps you know someone who might be just the right fit.

We are seeking a skilled and innovative Research Director of Policy/Legislative Analysis who combines a big-picture outlook with a mastery of details. We are seeking an analytical thinker who has the management experience and grit to help guide this Union in being the most effective for its’ members. This person should feel confident presenting data to a group that might not be seeing eye to eye, and relish the chance to build consensus. Our ideal candidate will be experienced in managing a team of dedicated researchers, have experience in the government or public sector, and hold a Masters in Economics or Social Science field.

With your experience I think you could do some excellent work with this organization and I’d love to tell you a bit more about the opportunity… You’d get the chance to work directly with the decision-makers and really get a chance to put your mark on an institution!

I put those research skills to work and discovered the name of that union, which I won’t identify except to say it is one of the largest public sector local unions in the country.

The job pays six figures, with “outstanding” family health care benefits, pension, 401k and “liberal paid time off.”

What do you think, readers? Should I pursue this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to rule the galaxy?


There Are Three Sides to Any NEA Story

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Mar• 17•15

NEAimagetriangleWhat you’re looking at here is NEA’s solution to what its cognitive linguistic analysis identified as the problem: corporate education reform language.

You may recall that the union determined “education reform” was too negative a term for public usage, and that “education improvement” or “education excellence” was preferred. NEA also dismissed “rigorous evaluations,” “basic skills” and “classroom investment,” replacing them with “love of learning.”

To depict graphically this change in semantic direction, the union came up with the “message triangle.”

As you can see, the three sides are opportunity, student success and quality. The text in the center reads: “As a __________ (presumably to be filled in with one’s job title), I am deeply committed to the success of every student. Students are at the center of everything we do.”

If I wanted to be a wise ass (and I do), I would agree that students are at the center of what NEA does. They are trapped there, surrounded on three sides and unable to escape to opportunity, success or quality.

But as you can see, the three sides are not joined to each other, leaving gaps through which a few students can squeeze and make their getaway.

One has to wonder if NEA’s officers really think a triangle will improve the union’s public image, or whether they are being deliberately obtuse.


California Teachers Association Fired Staff Union President

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Mar• 16•15

Until recently, Katie Howard-Mullins was an employee of the California Teachers Association. The union fired her, for reasons unclear to outsiders such as myself. What makes the action noteworthy is that Howard-Mullins was also the president of one of CTA’s staff unions, representing CTA’s employees against union management. This has her colleagues up in arms.

CTA’s employees are protesting the lack of progressive discipline, rather than a gross miscarriage of justice, suggesting Howard-Mullins may have committed some sort of infraction requiring administrative action. However, if we apply the union’s own standards, the firing of a union president is automatically suspect on its face.

We’re unlikely to learn what led CTA to this action, but it bears remembering, should accusations of retribution against union officers become an issue in the future.


Not Enough? Too Many? It’s a Crisis, Either Way

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Mar• 13•15

The numbers are grim among some of the nation’s largest producers of new teachers: In California, enrollment is down 53 percent over the past five years….Why have the numbers fallen so far, so fast?

– National Public Radio, “Where Have All The Teachers Gone?” March 3, 2015

Kelsey Baxter knew she might get laid off this week. It’s her first year teaching full-time at an elementary school in San Bruno, on the San Francisco peninsula, and seniority rules the layoff process. Still, it wasn’t easy to get her termination notice.

“Even though we get three months off – or everybody thinks we do – there’s a lot of prep that goes into getting ready for the next school year,” Baxter says. “And by June, the end of June, if you don’t have a room or a job, you really start to get into that panic mode – oh, gosh, am I going to get a job? Am I not?”

– Capital Public Radio (Sacramento, California), “California Teacher Layoffs Up Slightly This Year” March 13, 2015