A listening post monitoring public education and teachers’ unions.

Movies For Your Labor Day Weekend

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Sep• 04•15

Sure, you can watch Norma Rae or Matewan or Harlan County USA, but here are five movies about labor unions that probably won’t make the AFL-CIO’s top ten list. In countdown order:

5) I’m All Right Jack – A 1959 British comedy featuring Peter Sellers as a communist shop steward.

(Sorry, embed not working. Follow the link.)

4) F.I.S.T. – A 1978 film starring Sylvester Stallone as a thinly-disguised Jimmy Hoffa.

3) The Wire: Season 2 – The 2003 HBO series centered around a local of the International Brotherhood of Stevedores and its secretary-treasurer, Frank Sobotka. The episodes are mostly sympathetic to the union, but corruption is ingrained in the organization, as it is with virtually every organization in the series. (language warning)

2) Blue Collar – A 1978 Richard Pryor film about auto workers dealing with oppressive management and an even more oppressive union.

1) On the Waterfront – The granddaddy of them all. Marlon Brando’s iconic “I coulda been a contender” speech tends to overshadow this scene, in which Karl Malden stands up to the union bosses.


NEA’s SuperPAC Exposed to Kryptonite

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Sep• 02•15

Yahoo! Finance has an outcome-based look at campaign finance spending. The focus is on wealthy donors from both sides of the aisle, but it also contains an informative table on the 10 largest SuperPACs covering the last two election cycles and how their selected candidates did.

The NEA Advocacy Fund’s 2014 record was so atrocious it dropped the union to last place over the two cycles. It even greatly underperformed the other liberal SuperPACs.

As always, let me define political spending terms. Direct contributions to federal candidates must come only from PACs, and that money must be raised through voluntary donations. SuperPACs can raise unlimited amounts of money, but cannot contribute directly to candidates or coordinate campaigns with them.

For NEA, candidate contributions must come from its PAC – The NEA Fund for Children and Public Education. But the $31.1 million noted in the table came from dues money – about $12 from each active member.



Written By: Mike Antonucci - Sep• 01•15

The anonymous blogger behind Rocky Top Politics in Tennessee thinks he has solved the “mystery of P.O. Box 1292,” which is the only known location of National Research Services, LLC.

You may recall that nebulous firm materialized in 2014 for the sole purpose of receiving, then spending, PAC money from the Alabama Education Association.

Rocky Top’s theory is just a theory, but a private eye might say it warrants further investigation.


Labor Day Sale

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Aug• 31•15

Click here to read.


NLRB Ruling Might Cut Both Ways

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Aug• 31•15

Unions were very excited last week when the National Labor Relations Board greatly expanded the definition of a “joint employer.” They see it as an opportunity, particularly in the fast food industry, to organize workers and negotiate directly with parent corporations instead of franchisees.

Anyone with an interest in labor relations should read the full ruling, along with the dissent, to get a sense of how far-reaching this change of interpretation could be. The board majority stated, “The dissent repeatedly criticizes our decision as articulating a test under which ‘there can be no certainty or predictability regarding the identity of the employer.’ But we do not and cannot attempt today to articulate every fact and circumstance that could define the contours of a joint employment relationship.”

The board minority argued, “This change will subject countless entities to unprecedented new joint-bargaining obligations that most do not even know they have, to potential joint liability for unfair labor practices and breaches of collective-bargaining agreements, and to economic protest activity, including what have heretofore been unlawful secondary strikes, boycotts, and picketing.”


The immediate benefit of the ruling will fall to lawyers, because this will be battled out in the courts for many years to come.

It does strike me, though, that the new joint-employer status might even become a problem for the unions themselves. The AFL-CIO, the Teamsters, the NEA and AFT, SEIU, and a host of other national unions have affiliates, and these affiliates employ workers, temps and sub-contractors. Some have collective bargaining agreements; others do not.

NEA not only helps fund the employment of state affiliate staffers, but exercises some control over them through the UniServ shared staffing program. An organizer who works for the California Teachers Association can be assigned (voluntarily) to temporarily work in Wisconsin, if NEA decides there is a need. Under this ruling, NEA national headquarters could end up involved in internal labor disputes and contracting agreements all across the country.

We’re likely to be treated to the sight of union officers explaining how the NLRB ruling applies to McDonald’s, but not to them.


Union President on “Teacher Shortage”: “Who Cares What the Data Says?”

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Aug• 28•15

Stop what you’re doing and follow this link to Shaina Cavazos’ story in today’s Chalkbeat Indiana about the latest teacher shortage frenzy.

The takeaway? “…the problem isn’t the number of certified teachers but a mismatch between them and available jobs. And the situation isn’t as bad or out of the ordinary as recent media coverage has suggested.”

The story even quotes University of Pennsylvania professor Richard Ingersoll. “Almost every president since Eisenhower has given a speech on teacher shortage … we’ve spent umpteen dollars trying to fix this over the last half-century,” Ingersoll said. “But this is the wrong diagnosis and the wrong prescription … It’s not an under-supply, it’s too much turnover.”

That’s a wonderful admission, except there isn’t too much turnover, either.

But the prize goes to Indiana State Teachers Association president Teresa Meredith. “There really is a climate that’s been created, and we have to look at the climate and figure out how to fix it,” she said. “Who cares what the data says because when you have administrators who don’t have applicants before the first day of school, there’s a shortage, end of story.”

“Who cares what the data says?” Spoken like the president of an organization that ran a “Ponzi-like scheme” with taxpayer funds for teachers’ long-term disability benefits.


Remembering the Obama Years

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Aug• 26•15

If we’re going to start the 2016 Presidential campaign in mid-2015, it can’t be too early for a retrospective on Barack Obama and his education policy. Here is the video of his speech to the 2008 National Education Association Representative Assembly after the delegates had endorsed him for President (but way too long after he needed it).

Three years later, the delegates gave him an early endorsement for reelection, but not without some grumbling. Given the same circumstances, I believe NEA would still do the same thing, but I suppose there has to be some doubts about the practice of hoping one candidate will make all your dreams come true. Remember, Arne Duncan is still U.S. Secretary of Education.