A listening post monitoring public education and teachers’ unions.


Written By: Mike Antonucci - Mar• 21•14

I’d like to thank United Teachers Los Angeles for giving me an easy Friday this week. Just a few tweaks to a March 30, 2011 post will bring us right up-to-date on the election for president of the union. Here it is:

Back to Basics Candidate Wins Close to Winning UTLA Presidency

Following the line of succession is the preferred method of achieving high office in teachers’ unions, but there is a tried-and-true way for challengers to upset the political order. Accuse the incumbent, or heir apparent, of being too accommodating to district wishes and promise to be more combative in the battle to achieve higher salaries, benefits and job protections.

It has been particularly effective with the United Teachers Los Angeles, and Warren Fletcher Alex Caputo-Pearl utilized it to win dominate the election for the presidency over Julie Washington Warren Fletcher, incumbent vice president. under the term-limited A.J. Duffy. Caputo-Pearl fell just short of an outright majority to avoid a runoff.

Here is Fletcher’s Caputo-Pearl’s short campaign victory interview video, wherein he states, “The union has stopped focusing on its primary job – protecting its members.” “Warren Fletcher’s strategy – the current president, Warren Fletcher – his strategy has been ineffective at actually building power with teachers and communities and parents.”

Fletcher Caputo-Pearl picked up 53% 48% of the votes cast, but as is typical in union elections, turnout was low. Still, I think the non-voters were making their voices heard, just as they did in 2008. We should include them in the results:

Warren Fletcher – 4,711 (11.7%) Alex Caputo-Pearl – 3,408 (10.8%)

Julie Washington – 4,247 (10.5%) Warren Fletcher – 1,508 (4.8%)

Gregg Solkovits – 1,142 (3.6%)

Bill Gaffney – 323 (1.0%)

Saul “The Fighter” Lankster – 287 (0.9%)

David R. Garcia – 261 (0.8%)

Innocent O. Osunwa – 60 (0.2%)

Kevin Mottus – 53 (0.2%)

Leonard Segal – 34 (0.1%)

Marcos Ortega II – 23 (0.1%)

Don’t Give a Crap – 31,308 24,453 (77.8%) (77.5%)


Both Sides Agree: Unions Got Squished in Illinois

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Mar• 20•14

The Chicago Tribune editorial page is predictably establishment when it comes to politics, and here is its assessment of Tuesday’s Illinois primary results:

Efforts by organized labor to defeat candidates who supported pension reform largely failed around the state. The Chicago Teachers Union onslaught against state Rep. Christian Mitchell of Chicago, who supported the pension bill, failed. Adam Johnson of Warrenville, the Illinois Education Association-backed candidate against state Rep. Jeanne Ives, lost. Amanda Mancke of Oswego, the IEA’s pick in the open 97th House District, lost to reformer Mark Batinick of Plainfield.

The Illinois Federation of Teachers and state labor groups went all in for Nancy Schiavone in Chicago’s 40th House District race. She lost to Rep. Jaime Andrade, who voted for pension reform.

Even in Southern Illinois — strong union territory — voters nominated straight-talking fiscal reformer Reginald “Reggie” Phillips of Charleston for the 110th House District over the more heavily union-backed candidate, Darrell Cox.

Voters rejected Republican Rep. Dennis Reboletti of Elmhurst in a Senate race and Rep. Sandra Pihos of Glen Ellyn, who was running for re-election. Both had union support, and both had been wishy-washy on pension reform. Voters nominated former Rep. Chris Nybo of Elmhurst for the Senate and attorney Peter Breen of Lombard for the House. Both promised to be tightly focused fiscal reformers.

The left-wing In These Times also noted organized labor’s defeats, but was encouraged by the victory of progressive Will Guzzardi in the 39th District. Even this silver lining had a cloud, however:

Guzzardi’s victory struck a blow at both the remnants of the old machine and the new boss, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who endorsed Toni Berrios. But Guzzardi’s win was only partly a labor victory: on election day unions were working hard in the streets around Logan Square for both candidates, with mostly public-sector unions working for Guzzardi and building trades unions stumping for Berrios.

Union solidarity is a potent political force, but we are likely to see more instances in the future of public sector unions and private sector unions aligning on opposite sides, especially on fiscal policy. Changes in the internal composition of the labor movement will mean changes in its political agenda.


The Lesser of Two Evildoers

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Mar• 19•14

raunerblofeldI’m inclined to cut the Illinois Education Association and other unions some slack for frittering away millions of dollars in an attempt to deny the Republican gubernatorial nomination to arch-villain Bruce Rauner. They were able to get their chosen candidate to within three points of the heavily favored Rauner but, horseshoes and hand grenades, as the cliché goes.

In a statement after the results were known, IEA President Cinda Klickna said, “It is disappointing, but not surprising, that a candidate who outspent his opposition so overwhelmingly was able to win a four-way race.”

She’s right. It was not surprising. So why did the unions roll the dice on the Republican primary and a hoped-for horde of crossover voters?

Well, the problem is they don’t like incumbent Democrat Gov. Pat Quinn, and are particularly incensed about his choice of arch-villain running mate, former CEO of the Chicago Public Schools Paul Vallas.

Once Democrats started opposing the teachers’ union agenda, it became increasingly common to find education reform Democrats running against education reform Republicans. It’s leaving teachers’ unions in a bind about whom to back. Ultimately, of course, they back the Democrat, and they will in this case, too. But they’re spending more and more money for ever-diminishing returns if and when these folks are elected (ref. Obama).

When they lose, it pokes a hole in the cloak of invincibility unions have worn for decades, making it even more likely the next election will again feature arch-villains from both parties. So the attempt to purchase themselves a pliable Republican (and there are many willing to take the bait) at least shows some original thinking. It didn’t work this time, but it might under more favorable conditions elsewhere.


Decert Trend Goes All the Way to Guam

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Mar• 18•14

We haven’t written about the Guam Federation of Teachers since the lamented departure of Matt Rector, but the AFT affiliate is back in the news, once again thanks to the efforts of perennial gadfly Carol Somerfleck.

Somerfleck was unsuccessful in her attempt to become president of GFT, but she was apparently very successful in getting the employees at her school, Agana Heights Elementary, to sign a decertification petition and form their own union. According to the petition filed by Somerfleck’s attorney husband, 93 percent of the school’s approximately 50 employees signed.

It will be an uphill battle, to say the least. Normally you can only decertify the entire union, which in this case represents the employees of all public schools in Guam. There is no precedent for one school seceding and forming its own union.

Not that the effort is totally quixotic. If there were no teachers’ union in Guam, and 93 percent of the employees at a single school wanted to form one, it would be legally difficult to deny them their choice. So it will be interesting to see on what grounds the Agana Heights workers are shut out.


Special Quote of the Week Issue

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Mar• 17•14

Click here to read.


The Campaign Trail

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Mar• 17•14

Running a big-city teachers’ union is a time-consuming job, and so is running for that job. Alex Caputo-Pearl, a candidate for the presidency of United Teachers Los Angeles, found he was having trouble juggling the time commitments of campaigning for office and teaching high school social studies. Something had to give.

So Caputo-Pearl took unpaid leave for the equivalent of 17 school days to campaign. He had his principal’s permission, but the district says the principal exceeded his authority and now Caputo-Pearl may face disciplinary action for unauthorized leave.

Superintendent John Deasy said the district should never have to pay a substitute for time spent campaigning.

“When your duties are done for which we pay you, campaign your hearts out,” Deasy said. “In the meantime, please teach.”


1,200-Member Local to Vote on Leaving California Teachers Association

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Mar• 14•14

The Modesto Teachers Association will hold an all-member vote on whether to disaffiliate from the California Teachers Association, the Modesto Bee reported yesterday.

A CTA spokesman said the two organizations are at odds over the use of the local’s UniServ grant money. I suspect the real issue is whether Modesto feels it is getting its money’s worth from the dues it passes up the chain.

The local will hold a series of meetings before the vote, which apparently has not yet been scheduled.

Modesto is one of CTA’s larger locals, representing approximately 1,200 teachers. If it leaves CTA, it will be the largest local to do so, and the second largest group of California teachers not to be affiliated with NEA or AFT. The 1,600 or so teachers in the Clovis Unified School District have never formed a union.