Another Victory for Secret Ballots Over Card Check

Card check is the process by which union representatives collect signatures from employees indicating they want a union in their workplace. In some places if the union gets more than 50% of the proposed bargaining unit to sign, management must recognize and negotiate with the union.

As you can imagine, unions really like card check because it allows no avenue for organized opposition and can often be accomplished under the radar. But if the rules require a secret ballot election, surprises do occur. Case in point: Harvard University.

Last February the United Auto Workers submitted authorization cards from approximately 60 percent of the graduate student teaching and research assistants. The union had every reason to believe it would win a vote, especially since UAW had just completed a successful election at Columbia University last month.

But when the ballots were counted, union opponents had garnered 53.4% of the vote.

What happened? John Froberg, a graduate student in molecular biology who said he voted against unionization, had an idea.

[Organizers] were extremely aggressive about getting you to sign the authorization card. They didn’t necessarily explain what the authorization card was, or what the union was. And they kept coming around multiple times…so I think a lot of people were like: “Hey, I’ll sign this thing, and so you’ll stop coming after me.”

This kind of result isn’t unheard of, and demonstrates how things can change in the privacy of the voting booth – as if the entire country hasn’t already learned that lesson.


Secretary of Education Plan B

The American Federation of Teachers tweeted this today:

So I guess it’s safe to say tonight’s confirmation hearing won’t be a high-level intellectual discussion. AFT knows it’s just a question of counting votes, so what is this mania all about?

It’s pretty simple. AFT and NEA need a victory. Despite their best efforts and free spending, they ended up with a President who is not only worse for them than Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, but worse for them than any of the other two dozen or so Republicans who ran for the nomination, plus Gary Johnson.

Defeating DeVos serves only to demonstrate to the members and potential internal union opponents that the national organizations still carry some heft. But what would happen next?

According to one report, on Hillary’s very short list for Secretary of Education was Jennifer Granholm, former governor of Michigan.

If a Midwestern governor was good enough for Clinton, why not for Trump? Derail DeVos and open the door for this guy.

Get rid of him and others are still in the wings.

If you enjoy political theater, by all means get your popcorn ready and tune in to C-SPAN. But it won’t get better in the second act.


Story Updates

* The Syracuse Teachers Association situation is escalating. President Karen Fruscello apparently discovered another union officer was routinely surfing for porn on an office computer. The executive board, consisting entirely of members from an opposing caucus, suspended Fruscello, reportedly for conducting an unauthorized investigation, but has yet to take action against the unnamed porn surfer.

Yesterday, acting president Megan Root released this statement:

The Syracuse Teachers Association deeply regrets that what should have been an internally handled personnel issue has become a salacious matter for the public. It is always STA practice to handle personnel matters in a way that preserves our members’ confidentiality and right to privacy.

The Association is disheartened that Karen Fruscello is so insistent in trying this issue through the press. Her statements and behavior do not serve the members or the Association and are regrettable. The Association needs to be able to conduct our investigations internally and privately to ensure that our members are given due process. Karen Fruscello’s actions are damaging, harassing, and interfere with the work of the Association.

The reference to due process is rich, considering the lack of due process for Fruscello’s suspension and the fact that STA’s bylaws do not authorize the actions the board has taken. The appeal to confidentiality and privacy is also a straw man, since the identity of the alleged perpetrator has not been disclosed.

* A union source tells us that the board of the Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County in Maryland has withdrawn its proposal to require presidential candidates to first serve on the board. Coupled with a similar defeat in Denver, that makes union candidate restrictions 0 for 2.


Syracuse Union Suspends President

The lede in this story reads: “The Syracuse teachers union president says she was suspended after she uncovered a fellow officer’s inappropriate use of a computer during an audit.”

That doesn’t make much sense, and the details aren’t very illuminating either. Another story tells us what the inappropriate use was. But make your way down to the 12th paragraph and you see:

Fruscello first took office in July. She defeated six-year president Kevin Ahern in an election. The rest of the elected board ran with Ahern as part of the “Professional Partners” caucus. Fruscello ran as an outsider determined to disrupt business as usual at the union.

I don’t know if Fruscello is a crusader for transparency or another Steve Conn, but a careful examination of the Syracuse Teachers Association bylaws shows the union’s executive board has no authority to “suspend” anyone, much less the president.

It can recommend to the union’s representative assembly that the office be declared vacant if the president “has been grossly negligent.” It then takes a two-thirds vote of the RA to remove her.

How long before AFT sends in the paratroopers to restore order?


This Week Inside Baseball

Teacher union news is arcane enough, but detailing personnel moves goes that extra level below. Here’s more than you cared to know about who’s doing what and where:

* The floundering Indiana State Teachers Association is looking for a new executive director to replace Brenda Pike, who left to accept a similar position at the floundering Alabama Education Association.

* After running for every elected office from National Education Association president on down, Mark Airgood finally tasted victory, winning a runoff to become secretary of the Oakland Education Association. OEA has 2,700 members and Airgood captured 260 votes.

Airgood is probably NEA’s most prominent member of By Any Means Necessary (BAMN), a militant leftist group. Most NEA activists consider BAMN to be a mere nuisance, but some accuse it of cult practices.

* Robin Schmidt ran an unsuccessful campaign for president of the Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County. Now he wants to know why the union wants to change the rules and require presidential candidates to first serve on the union’s board of directors.

“Richard Benfer, TAAAC’s current president, and his minions believe that in order to run for the office of TAAAC president you must first be admitted to their inner circle to demonstrate your worthiness,” Schmidt wrote.

* A similar measure was defeated by representatives of the Denver Classroom Teachers Association, clearing the way for members of a social justice caucus to run for the top offices of the union.

* Former Kansas NEA board member Robert Bulk was sentenced to 68 months in prison after pleading guilty to two felony counts of sexual exploitation of a child (background here).