The May 2012 issue of “California Educator,” published by the California Teachers Association – that’s “teachers union” in plain English – has a two page political ad on pages 20 and 21 that urges teachers to fight a state initiative that will be on California’s November ballot. The text of this ad, which can be removed and used as a poster, includes these nuggets:
“There are those who want to silence your voice in the schools. The “Stop Special Interest Money Now Act” is not what it seems. It’s just a corporate power grab…”
“Far from being balanced or giving union members more of a voice, it singles out unions that represent teachers, nurses and firefighters for unfair treatment. It weakens our voice on things that matter. And corporations already outspend unions 15 to 1 on political contributions.”
It’s especially relevant to wonder whether or not the CTA cares about the truth when they distribute material like this to their members, considering the fact that their members are teachers who are training the next generation of American citizens. They are training America’s future workers, individuals who will need to compete in the global marketplace for jobs, a marketplace where integrity, competence, a work-ethic, and the ability to separate fact from fiction are still strong prerequisites for career success. So how well does this ad pass the integrity test?
(1) “It’s just a corporate power grab.”
If you refer to the California Secretary of State website page that tracks the contributions for and against the Stop Special Interest Money Now initiative, you will see that the three PACs that support this effort have taken over 2.5 years to scrape together a total of $2.5 million, most of which was spent just getting this measure on the ballot. While the average contribution was $8,268, not one corporation is included among the donors, only individuals.
By contrast, refer to the same website page to view the newly formed PAC that opposes this initiative. Formed earlier this year, in less than six months they have already raised $6.2 million from only 23 entities, nearly all of them public sector unions. The average contribution per entity is $271,626, thirty-two times more than the average for these supposed “corporate power grabbers.” What does this tell you about who wields the most money and power?
(2) “Far from being balanced or giving union members more of a voice, it singles out unions that represent teachers, nurses and firefighters for unfair treatment.”
If one reads the text of this initiative it is difficult to see how it singles out unions in any way. Here are the four provisions of this initiative; rules that apply to corporations and unions equally:
– Bans both corporate and labor union direct contributions to candidates;
– Prohibits government contractors (including public sector unions) from contributing money to government officials who award them contracts;
– Prohibits corporations and labor unions from collecting political funds from employees and union members via payroll deduction; and,
– Makes all employee political contributions by any other means strictly voluntary, requiring annual written consent.
Could it be that the special interests opposed to this initiative, including the CTA who have already contributed $644,000 against it, are afraid of having to ask their members for political contributions? Are they afraid they may suddenly become more accountable to their members?
(3) “Corporations already outspend unions 15 to 1 on political contributions.”
It would be interesting to know exactly how the public relations professionals working for the CTA cooked the data to get this figure. UnionWatch conducted an analysis of political contributions using data from the same organization, the non-partisan research group OpenSecrets.org. In our analysis, “Which Special Interests Are Partisan,” we concluded the following:
– The corporate and financial sectors combined do outspend unions, by a ratio of almost exactly 2-to-1, nowhere near the reported 15-to-1 claimed by the CTA.
– Unions spent 95% of their contributions on Democrats.
– The corporate sector spent 56% of their contributions on Republicans, and the financial sector spent 53% of their contributions on Republicans. Their spending between the two parties was essentially nonpartisan.
– Overall, among the top 100 political spenders of the last 20 years, Democrats collected 62% of the takings, and Republicans collected 38%.
This data, admittedly, refers to federal election spending. But state and local elections are dominated, if anything, even more by public sector unions. In our analysis “Public Sector Unions and Political Spending,” using union membership data and making conservative assumptions regarding annual dues and the percentage of dues allocated to political activity, we concluded that public sector unions spend $250 million per year in California on political activity. The reason this information isn’t easily compiled is because most of this political spending is at the local level where it becomes very hard to aggregate – not only city council and county supervisor seats, but every elected official who controls budgets and compensation; water boards, school boards, fire commissions, and so on. CTA money tracks and invests in literally thousands of electoral races in California every year.
Earlier this month City Journal published an article by Troy Senik entitled “The Worst Union in America,” where he describes the rise of the CTA in California. In this article there is further documentation showing how much money the CTA uses every year to influence state and local elections. There is no political player in California that comes anywhere close to the CTA in terms of political influence. And the trope that corporations somehow require unions like the CTA to provide “balance” is absurd. Corporations couldn’t care less what the CTA does. If corporations were to actually mobilize to oppose the CTA, which they have not done, it would be because as good corporate citizens, they had finally decided that breaking the CTA is the only way we’ll finally fix our schools and start producing a better educated workforce.
The power of the CTA goes well beyond their explicitly political spending. The CTA influences their members with a relentlessly confrontational, anti-business bias. These teachers then train our students. They shape their young minds. And the CTA’s political poster that we debunk in this post is now being stapled to thousands of classroom walls throughout California. This is an example of CTA power that is non-monetary, but immensely, tragically powerful.