A listening post monitoring public education and teachers’ unions.

AFT’s Coke Boycott Ends With a Search for Stakeholders

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Apr• 01•15

Last October the American Federation of Teachers adopted a resolution to boycott Coca Cola products and to encourage schools to do the same.

Last week the union’s executive council ended the boycott, citing a new collaborative agreement between AFT and Coke to address child labor in the sugar cane harvest.

That didn’t sit well in the fever swamp where Coca Cola is called a “child predator.” Ray Rogers, director of Corporate Campaign Inc., who helped get the boycott resolution passed, said he hoped that AFT president Randi Weingarten “at least got a lifetime’s worth of free product for advancing Coca-Cola’s interests over the well-being of children.”

The boycott resolution cited Coke’s alleged involvement in violence against its workers, subcontracting, murder of union leaders, death threats and kidnappings. The collaborative agreement mentions none of this, of course, and focuses exclusively on the issue of child labor. It’s as mealymouthed and wordsmithed as you might expect.

The first two paragraphs of the agreement are a defense of Coca Cola. The third paragraph declares that AFT has a vast network of stakeholders. Then comes the agreed-upon actions:

* Collaborate to identify local stakeholders in specific countries with expertise in education and/or addressing child labor to facilitate the child labor due diligence studies.

* Facilitate participation of AFT global affiliates Education International and Public Services International in local multi-stakeholder convenings, as needed.

* Collaborate on approaches to the remediation of child labor (when it is identified) and the advancement of school attendance, including engaging with a broader group of stakeholders, as needed.

Or, to be more concise: Find stakeholders, hold meetings (as needed), find more stakeholders (as needed).

AFT and Coke will review progress once a year, probably over the phone.

In AFT’s defense, this is about as well as this entire exercise could have ended for the union. The only other alternative was to watch the boycott peter out… assuming more than a handful of AFT members were aware of its existence in the first place.


I Support the Opt-Out Movement

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Mar• 31•15

New York State United Teachers is formally encouraging parents to “opt out” their children from the state’s standardized tests, and AFT president Randi Weingarten is applauding those efforts.

I agree with them. Why should students have to endure something so pointless and ineffective? But why stop there? Here are 10 more activities that should be subject to student “opt out”:

1) Pop quizzes – Designed purely to demonstrate to individual students how unprepared they are, the pop quiz destroys self-confidence and leaves students constantly on edge, wondering when and if they will be evaluated. Let them opt out and avoid that pain.

2) School assemblies – Interferes with valuable instructional time. Even time spent in silent study would be better than yet another motivational speech by whoever wandered into the district that week.

3) Field trips – No one should have to ride the school bus any longer than absolutely necessary. It subjects smaller, thinner students to bullying and roughhousing.

4) P.E. – Possibility of physical and psychological injury.

5) Recess – Interferes with valuable instructional time and promotes idleness.

6) Math – Nothing more likely to harm your child’s self-esteem.

7) Music – I’ve seen American Idol, and the last thing we need is more teen singers.

8) Homework – Indoctrinates youngsters to the idea that the workday never ends. Interferes with extracurricular activities and a student’s search for his or her own path in life.

9) Lunch – It’s free because no one would pay for it.

10) Attendance – What kind of society forces children as young as six to sit in a room with 30 others while an adult drones on about Derridean thought and semiomimesis?

I’m glad the teachers’ unions are getting on board this whole concept of opting out. I encourage them to embrace it in all aspects of public education.


“We know we could experience an immediate, short-term loss of membership.”

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Mar• 30•15

Click here to read.


Hot Tips from the Hoosegow

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Mar• 30•15

Dateline – Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania:

A former Wyoming Area School District teacher who embezzled nearly $60,000 from the teachers’ union when she was president has written a “how to” book on surviving federal prison.

While Lisa Barrett was sitting in the top bunk of her cubicle at Danbury Federal Prison Camp in Danbury, Connecticut, she penned the book “How to Navigate Through Federal Prison and Gain an Early Release.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in September 2013 had charged Barrett, then 48, with one count of embezzlement of funds of a labor organization. Prosecutors had determined she had taken $59,732 from the Wyoming Area Education Association over several years, and said the union had determined $94,125 was missing, but they could not confirm the higher amount.

…An explainer on provides this description of the book:
“Have you or a loved one been sentenced to serve time in Federal prison and have no clue what to expect? This experience doesn’t have to be as scary or stressful as you may think. There is a way to overcome this obstacle as quickly as possible and come out on top! Let Lisa Barrett teach you the ropes!”

…Smashwords says Barrett taught nearly 30 years in the Pennsylvania public school system and advocated for education reform as a teacher’s union president and as regional director of political action for the Pennsylvania State Education Association.



Written By: Mike Antonucci - Mar• 27•15

NEA president: It’s time for education companies to be transparent” – headline, Washington Post, March 26

Missouri Officials Block Efforts to Track Time Teachers Spend on Union Business; Officials: Union activities exempt from transparency laws” – headline, Washington Free Beacon, March 26


NEA Shows It’s Serious About 2016 By Sending Letter to John Bolton

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Mar• 26•15

So we got a media blitz yesterday and this morning, informing us that the National Education Association is already planning for the 2016 Presidential campaign.

“We have 3 million members who want desperately to know what the candidates have to say to really, seriously improve public education,” NEA President Lily Eskelsen García told reporters. “We intend to activate those 3 million members, the parents, even the students.”

(How about activating the students to learn math?)

Activation will involve the cutting edge tactic of placing billboards at the Des Moines and Manchester airports. NEA tried billboards in 2004, coupled with a basket of apples for a debate moderator, to no discernible effect.

The Post reminded Eskelsen Garcia that the Gates and Broad Foundations spent $25 million on “Ed in ’08,” to no discernible effect.

“Even though Gates has lots and lots of money, we have something they don’t – 3 million members,” she said. Except that NEA has spent more than $25 million each Presidential election year, and it used to have 3.2 million members, to no discernible effect.

The union also sent questionnaires to 20 people it thinks might run for President. Fifteen of them are Republicans, including John Bolton and Ben Carson. One is independent Bernie Sanders.

That makes 16 wasted stamps.

The four Democrats are Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Martin O’Malley and Jim Webb.

That’s two more wasted stamps and one necessary only as a courtesy to the sitting Vice President.

It will be Hillary, and if she wins we will have at least four more years of union complaints about the cozy relationship between establishment Democrats and corporate education reform. If she loses, the billboards for 2020 will go up soon after.



Written By: Mike Antonucci - Mar• 25•15

I spent so much time watching what the Teamsters were doing in Las Vegas that I forgot to look at how the folks at the Nevada State Education Association (NSEA) were taking it.

Not well.

First came the resignation of Brian Christensen, the executive director of the embattled Education Support Employees Association. Then came the departure, under undisclosed circumstances, of NSEA executive director Gary Peck.

The union benefited from a pre-recession teacher hiring boom, but has since been losing members steadily, currently at about 24,000 total membership. The impending loss of 5,000 ESEA members would force the affiliate to become yet another NEA protectorate. The number of state affiliates unable to support their own weight will be a drag on the national union for years to come.