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Combating Union Misinformation

Getting the facts to people who have been lied to for decades is essential for change.

In my latest City Journal post, I argue in favor of an initiative that will be on the ballot in California in November.

Proposition 32, which will appear on the November general-election ballot, would ban unions and most corporations from making direct contributions to state and local candidates. The measure would also bar government contractors from contributing to political campaigns. The most significant provision, though – the one giving public-employee unions, especially the California Teachers Association, fits – would prohibit corporations, unions, and government employers from deducting money from workers’ paychecks to use for political purposes.

Chris, a commenter to my article, dismissed my argument, claiming that,

It is very easy to opt-out of the payroll deductions, which amount to about 6 dollars a year per teacher.

When I read such comments, I have to wonder where Chris gets his misinformation. Assuming he isn’t pulling it out of a hat, he is getting it from someone he trusts, very probably his local teachers union. And, sad to say, there are many thousands of Chris’s who form opinions and vote on erroneous data. It brought back bad memories from 2005 when Prop. 75, the last paycheck protection initiative on the ballot, sought to ban “the use by public employee labor organizations of public employee dues or fees for political contributions except with the prior consent of individual public employees each year on a specified written form.” The prop was popular early in the campaign, but after CTA blasted ads over the summer in which they spouted lie after lie and managed to scare teachers (and the general public), it was voted down. Infuriated that CTA’s deceitfulness and demagoguery were so readily believed, I cofounded the California Teachers Empowerment Network in 2006.

Anyway, back to Chris and his $6 figure. The truth is quite different. Throughout California, almost all teachers belong to three unions – their local, a state affiliate (usually CTA) and a national union (usually NEA). Dues vary from year to year and in 2011-2012, teachers’ union dues broke down this way:
NEA – $178
CTA – $647
Local – varies (typically $200-$300)

What many California teachers don’t know is that they don’t have to belong to a union. By resigning from the union (and losing voting privileges and liability insurance) a teacher becomes what’s called an agency fee payer. As such, the teacher still has to pay the union the full dues amount, but can get a yearly rebate for monies that the unions “claim” they spend on politics. (I say “claim” because it is generally understood that the unions spend much more on politics than they admit to. In addition, there are many gray-area expenditures, like if a teachers union sends members a letter telling them to vote for a certain state assemblyman, the cost of the mailer and the postage don’t get counted as political spending, but rather as communication costs.)

What can someone who resigns from the union expect in the way of a rebate? As an example, the following rebate percentages were furnished by Sacramento-area teacher-blogger Darren Miller.
NEA – 56%
CTA – 28.6%
Local – 28.6%

This means, for example, that Miller, an agency fee payer, got back 28.6% of his CTA dues which amounted to $185 (28.6% of $647.) Same principle holds for NEA and his local. Hence, he received a rebate check last year for $358.20.

But there is an even bigger question here. Even if Prop. 32 flies and unions can’t deduct the political part of their dues from a member’s paycheck, I have to wonder why the government (i.e. the taxpayer) is involved at all in the collection of monies for a union – a private, non-tax paying, multimillion dollar corporation. In short, why can’t the union collect its own dues?

The answer, of course, is that if the union had to do it, it would lose millions because many teachers wouldn’t bother paying up. This is just what happened in Wisconsin after Act 10 became law.

In the nearly 15 months since Mr. Walker signed the law, 6,000 of the AFT’s Wisconsin 17,000 members quit, the union said. It blamed the drop on the law.

WEAC, the other teachers union in Wisconsin, has lost almost a quarter of its membership (20,000 teachers) since the advent of Act 10, with more sure to follow when their contracts end in June 2013.

And just how do the unions justify payroll deduction of dues?

Bob Chanin, then-general counsel of the National Education Association, explained it in 1978: “It is well-recognized that if you take away the mechanism of payroll deduction you won’t collect a penny from these people, and it has nothing to do with voluntary or involuntary. I think it has a lot to do with the nature of the beast, and the beasts who are our teachers. . . [They] simply don’t come up with the money regardless of the purpose.”

Seems to me that it’s time that “the beasts who are our teachers” and the general public, who get taken to the cleaners on a regular basis, rise up against their abusers. A Yes vote on Prop. 32 in California would be a good place to start.

About the author: Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues.

CTA: Politically Correct, Clueless and Shameless

Recently dubbed “the worst union in America,” the California Teachers Association does its best to live down to its new moniker.

Troy Senik’s “The Worst Union in America,” is a deadly accurate piece which appears in the Spring 2012 edition of City Journal. Not surprisingly, the author was referring to the California Teachers Association, the state affiliate of the National Education Association. It wasn’t too hard for Senik to make his case because the evidence is, well, overwhelming. With its ever ready cash on hand (forcibly taken from teachers who have no choice but to fork it over), CTA has stopped every meaningful education reform measure that has been proposed, ensured that meaningless reforms like small class size in early grades are mandated, protects underperforming and criminal teachers, bullies political opponents and encourages lawbreaking when it is to their political advantage.

But all the mean and nasty behind-the-scenes stuff is done in the name of the children and for the good of society, don’t ya know. On its website, CTA does its best to show us how caring and beneficent it is. For example, as serious, politically correct environmentalists, it touts green energy on its website. You don’t have to dig too deep before you see, “GREEN keeps district out of the red….” Yup, they actually believe (or want us to believe) that becoming an enviro-fetishist is going to save us money. The United Nations, hardly a shill for the evil corporations which as we all know are trying to kill off trees and bunnies in the name of the almighty buck, says that going green will cost us a mere $76 trillion over the next 40 years. Others have the dollar amount even higher.

The point here is that CTA is best at extorting and then spending other people’s money. To that end, along with California Governor Brown, the union is backing a tax hike which will be on this November’s ballot. Those caring CTA folks, who are of course doing it for the children, want the public to pay a higher sales tax and high income earners to pay up to 25 percent more taxes on their income than they are now. California is already ranked #50 of all the states when it comes to business climate.

In another attempt at getting its sticky fingers on other people’s money, last Tuesday, teachers from all over the state took a day off from work (courtesy of the taxpayer) and went to Sacramento to lobby the legislature to pass an on-time budget. Clueless CTA President Dean Vogel said, “This makes it all the more crucial that voters pass the governor’s tax measure in November to put California back on the road to recovery.” Yes, Mr. Vogel, this will put Californians on the road all right – to Texas – where they are smart enough not to tax their most productive citizens to the point where they want to flee the state.

It was interesting to note that CTA picked May 22nd for Lobby Day. For those of you who are not on board with teacher union political correctness, May 22nd is a holiday that, at the urging of CTA, is celebrated in many schools in California. As the CTA website tells us, it is Harvey Milk Day and we are told that,

Harvey Milk gave his life for what he believed in, and with that courage and sacrifice he gave hope to an entire generation of gay and lesbian people whose basic humanity and freedom had been denied and dishonored.

Gave his life for what he believed in? A martyr? Oh, please. The truth is just a tad different than that. As I wrote two years ago,

He in fact was a San Francisco city supervisor who was murdered along with heterosexual SF Mayor George Moscone by an unstable Dan White – one of your basic psychos who felt that the two people he murdered had wronged him politically.

Milk was no more murdered because he was gay than Moscone was because he was straight. But hey, why let that get in the way of a good story that activists can use to their advantage. Hence, CTA is mentioning Milk in the same breath as Gandhi and Martin Luther King, which is somewhat beyond reprehensible. And even worse than the fabrications is the truth about Harvey Milk.

Milk led an undistinguished life at best. At worst, he was a supporter of criminal guru Jim Jones who orchestrated the deaths of over 900 of his followers, most of whom he cajoled into drinking Kool-Aid laced with poison. For the rest of the real story about Harvey Milk, please read this article by Daniel Flynn.

If the CTA hagiography of Milk is what many in the teaching profession will be using as source material, your children will be getting a wretchedly sanitized and bowdlerized view of an undistinguished and possibly evil man. Parents, you might want to investigate what kind of Kool-Aid your child’s school is planning for this “holiday.”

Just to show how deplorable its priorities are, CTA did not have one word on its website about the courage and sacrifice of our veterans on Memorial Day, just its paean to Milk along with “suggested activities” to help children to celebrate that “holiday.”

Then there is a snippet from the May Issue of CTA’s magazine, California Educator, the hard copy of which is mailed to all its members. For the rest of us, it is now available online. (HT Darren Miller.) On page 20-21 of the current issue there is a two page spread in which CTA excoriates Stop Special Interest Money Now (SSIMN), an initiative that will be on the ballot in November. CTA commits two sins here. First it shamelessly lies about the details of the initiative. As Union Watch points out, CTA attempts to portray this prop as a corporate power grab (Goliath) with unions (David) being bullied. Of course this is union newspeak; the reverse is actually true.

The second and worse sin is on page 22 where CTA suggests that teachers tear out the poster on the previous pages and hang it in their classrooms:

This disgusting attempt to indoctrinate children is done in the name of “opposition to the Corporate Power Grab.” In fact, CTA is suggesting that teachers break the law. According to the California Education Code, school employees are expressly forbidden from engaging in partisan politics on school grounds, during school time using school funds unless,

The information provided constitutes a fair and impartial presentation of relevant facts to aid the electorate in reaching an informed judgment regarding the bond issue or ballot measure.

“Fair and impartial?” What a joke.

Parents, it’s important to protect your children from CTA’s chicanery. Please visit your child’s class on a regular basis. If you see any signs of CTA’s attempts to indoctrinate your kids, speak up. Voice your disapproval to the teacher, the principal, the school board, the local press, your legislator – whoever will listen and act to counter the proselytizing, political correctness and blatant indoctrination produced on a regular basis by the “worst union in America.”

About the author: Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues.