The sticking point, as usual, is pension costs and post-retirement health care liabilities. Although the bargaining atmosphere is acrimonious, I expect a deal will get done before the strike deadline, just as it was in California.
The reason is simple. While those liabilities are a burden often kicked down the road, the affiliates in California and Washington are among the financially healthiest in NEA. You can rationalize cutting benefits in places like Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana, but there’s no case to be made for belt-tightening when the feast is laid on the table.
The New York Post‘s featured Labor Day story was headlined “UFT may have to dramatically slash $182M budget.” The newspaper reported that the United Federation of Teachers expected a 20-30 percent drop in membership – according to “labor sources” – should the U.S. Supreme Court strike down agency fee laws.
The unspecified cuts were announced by UFT president Michael Mulgrew at a union retreat last week, the Post reports.
It was an appropriate story for Labor Day, but you read about it back around Memorial Day in The 74.
In a column detailing what a number of unions were doing in advance of a possible Supreme Court ruling, I included this:
United Federation of Teachers: UFT’s New York City local estimates a 20 percent reduction in membership and feels it can safely cut $16 million, which is about 10 percent of the annual dues it collects.
Budget cuts at UFT might not affect your daily life, but if you have any interest at all in such issues, this is the place to come.
Over at the Center of the American Experiment, Tom Steward draws our attention to the latest effort of Education Minnesota to stave off the potential loss of thousands of members if the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down agency fee laws.
Down at the bottom of the union’s 2017-18 membership application, in small print and grayed out, is the usual authorization to allow the school district to deduct union dues from the teacher’s paycheck, but with an added twist:
This authorization shall remain in effect and shall be automatically renewed from year to year, irrespective of my membership in the union, unless I revoke it by submitting written notice to both my employer and the local union during the seven-day period that begins on September 24 and ends on September 30.
“Irrespective of my membership in the union.” This is a brazen attempt at collecting agency fees even if agency fee laws disappear. Actually, it’s worse than that because, as the fine print tells us, “Your dues include $25 per year for the Education Minnesota PAC.”
Agency fee law or not, no union member anywhere is required to contribute to the union’s PAC. But getting your money back won’t be easy. You have to email or hand deliver “a signed original request form” within 30 days of signing the membership application.
Where do you get the request form? You have to phone Education Minnesota’s headquarters to find out.
These types of tactics are vulnerable to court challenges, but someone still has to initiate the legal process to put an end to them. We’ll see this and other assorted trickery in all of the agency fee states.
Taxes and unions.
The Wyoming Education Association released a poll it commissioned that shows 78% of the state’s voters are willing to pay more in taxes for K-12 schools – 32% were willing to pay $200 or more per year.
The respondents weren’t asked what the current levels of spending are – information that tends to affect their answers, as polling by Education Next has repeatedly shown.
The annual Gallup poll shows approval of unions is up to 61% this year, the highest level since 2003.
Since 2003, the number of workers has grown by 14 million and the number of union members has fallen by 1.2 million.
Back from The Wall and hip-deep in piled-up tasks. Here are a few tidbits while I catch up:
* Despite contentious negotiations, the California Teachers Association and its professional staffers reached a tentative agreement on a new contract. Background here. Details pending.
* The Washington Education Association is not currently having the same luck with its staff contract negotiations, and a job action may occur if agreement is not reached by the end of the week.
* The dispute between the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association and its staff made the local news, and the National Labor Relations Board made the union post this notice as a settlement of an unfair labor practices complaint.
The staffers also accuse PCTA of coercive actions, refusal to furnish information, and other violations.
* Iowa teachers will soon have to reauthorize the Iowa State Education Association as their bargaining agent district by district. ISEA membership remained stable while other state affiliates were collapsing, but this will be a big challenge.