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Unions Continue Their Long March into the Classroom

Labor union indoctrination is seeping into our schools before our very eyes.

Teacher union intrusion into the lives of children is not new. Via anti-child work rules like tenure and seniority, unions have been making their influence felt for years. Additionally, as labor expert Kevin Dayton points out, they have been angling to promote their cause via the curriculum nationally since 1981. Here in California, union propaganda got a big push in 2002 when California governor Gray Davis signed Assembly Bill 1900 into law. As Dayton wrote at the time,

Sponsored by the California Federation of Teachers, this bill recognized the first week of April as ‘Labor History Week’ and authorized public school districts to ‘commemorate that week with appropriate educational exercises that make pupils aware of the role that the labor movement has played in shaping California and the United States.’

At the end of 2012, labor’s “week” morphed into “Labor History Month” (or as I referred to it at the time, “The Not So Merry Month of May”). I pointed out that the lessons suggested by the unions were not simply a celebration of organized workers but a toxic, one-sided, politicized bundle of indoctrination aimed at your kids. A few examples:

  • California Federation of Teachers – many “children’s stories,” including one which features a mean farmer and the hens that organize against him.
  • California Teachers Association – a bevy of “lessons” which can be readily summed up as “Workers are poor; CEOs are rich.” In other words, Class Warfare 101.
  • University of California Miguel Contreras Labor Program – lots of fun stuff for the little ones including an anthology of stories promoting the IWW, a radical union noted for its ties to socialism and anarchism, and a sanitized biography of singing Stalinist Pete Seeger.

The end of 2014 saw the unions on the move again. Every ten years or so, the California Department of Education tinkers with the state’s curriculum, and in Sept. 2014 the review process was initiated for the history framework. The state solicits suggestions from anyone who wants to weigh in and in November, the California Federation of Teachers sent a proposal to California’s Instructional Quality Commission – an advisory body to the California State Board of Education on matters concerning curriculum, instructional materials, and content standards. The missive, unearthed by Dayton, is a doozie. A few highlights:

  • CFT wonders why the Second Great Awakening earns a prominent place in the framework. This religious revival, which took place in the late 18th Century, moved beyond the educated elite of New England to those who were less wealthy and less educated, hastening in the temperance, abolition, and women’s rights movements. Instead, CFT wants to minimize the importance of Christianity and, at the same time, include teaching about anti-Muslim discrimination after 9–11. (While there was an uptick in anti-Muslim “hate crimes,” immediately following 9-11, it was short-lived. In fact, Jews today are targeted for their faith six times more frequently Muslims.)
  • The union wants the U.S. described as an “empire” not a “world power,” so as to let our kids know that we have regularly has been “dominating other civilizations.” When I read things like this, I can’t help but think about WWII. Germany and Japan – our sworn enemies at the time – were not raped and plundered by us after defeat, but instead assisted by us, rebuilt to become economically sound, independent world powers.)
  • Additionally, there’s a plea for a “Labor Studies” elective and in fact, that’s where we are heading. A proposed part of the revamped standards reads, “Students can participate in a collective bargaining simulation to examine the struggles of workers to be paid for the value of their labor and to work under safe conditions. They can examine legislation that gave workers the right to organize into unions, to improve working conditions, and to prohibit discrimination.”

The massive irony here is that the unions are railing against what they perceive to be a sanitized version of U.S. history, but nothing could be further from the truth. As an American history teacher for much of the aughts, I (and every other history teacher I knew) taught extensively about slavery and other injustices of our collective past. We didn’t browbeat the kids, however, into believing that American history was riddled with treachery and malevolence.

And given the opportunity, will the unions tell the full truth about their own history? Of course not. The CFT labor curriculum would be completely sanitized. The teachers unions alone leave us with a toxic waste dump worth of sludge to clean up. For example:

  • In 2000, the California Teachers Association spent over $26 million to defeat Prop. 38 – a voucher bill that would have enabled some kids to escape their failing schools.
  • Former CFT president Marty Hittleman, referred to the Parent Trigger Law – by which primarily black and Hispanic parents can force a governance change at their children’s defective public school – as a “lynch mob provision.”
  • In 2009, National Education Association president Dennis Van Roekel wrote a threatening letter to every Democratic member of Congress, demanding that they vote against the Washington D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (a voucher program that helps poor kids) … or else. (They dutifully complied en masse.)
  • Despite a massive amount of forced dues collected by the teachers unions every year, they (and in fact all unions) don’t pay a penny in tax. As 501(c)(5)’s they have a special exemption from the IRS.
  • Union leaders are always railing against the rich and palavering over CEO and worker pay disparity. However, while the average U.S. public school teacher salary for 2013-14 was $56,610, American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten’s income is $543,679 – almost ten times that of the average teacher, while corporate CEOs average $178,400 yearly, just five times that of the average worker.
  • In 2012, the California Teachers Association’s bought-and-paid-for state legislators robotically fell into line and killed SB 1530, which would have simplified the process of getting rid of pedophile teachers. (This really shouldn’t have come as a surprise. At its 2004 convention the NEA, CTA’s parent organization, gave its prestigious Human Rights Award to Kevin Jennings, founder of the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network. GLSEN is the group that presided over the infamous “Fistgate” conference held at Tufts University in Massachusetts in March 2000, where state employees gave explicit instructions about “fisting” and other forms of gay sexual activity to children as young as 12.)
  • On CFT’s Facebook page it often reminds people that the 5-day 40-hour work week comes to us courtesy of the unions. Wrong. Thinking it was a good business move, noted capitalist Henry Ford instituted that change in the 1920s. (The United Auto Workers, didn’t come into being until 1935.)

Will the unions insist that we include any of the above in their proposed “Labor Studies” elective? Of course not.

The unions have big plans for your children. If parents (and all citizens) don’t get involved and protest, these unions will add a load of America-trashing and distorted history to the curriculum, and at the same time indoctrinate your kids in the glories of collective bargaining. If this does not sound like something you want, please contact Kenneth McDonald (KMcDonal@cde.ca.gov) at the State Board of Education and express your thoughts.

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 and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.

Calling for Public Sector Union Reform is Not Anti-Union

Last week an article written by UnionWatch contributor Kevin Dayton was republished in its entirety by the State Building and Construction Trades Council. While we are pleased that the SBCTC is sharing our material with their members, we object to their characterization of UnionWatch as an “anti-union website.” We also invite them to consider the greater threats to overall worker prosperity.

UnionWatch is not anti-union. UnionWatch aspires to provide information that will elevate and enlighten the public dialogue on the appropriate role for unions, especially in the public sector, with the goal of helping to foster constructive progress towards more effective and equitable state and federal laws governing unions. Here are some policy options we have explored that might make unions more relevant, accountable to their members, and beneficial to the overall economy:

Voluntary Union Membership and Voluntary Union Representation
No worker should be forced to join a union as a condition of employment, and any worker who wishes to represent themselves in their relationship with their employer should be free to do so.

Politically Neutral Public Sector Unions
Public sector unions should not be permitted to collect dues via payroll deduction, nor should they be permitted to use any portion of member dues for political activities. Government employees should not be electing their own bosses, particularly since the politicians who must manage government workforces are not required to earn a profit in a competitive market, and therefore face far less adverse consequences when they give in to union demands for unsustainable wages and benefits.

Union-Free Public Safety Agencies
Public safety unions require the most stringent reforms of all since their members not only work for the government, but are the first responders who are responsible for saving lives as well as taking lives in the interests of public safety and to enforce our laws. Unions for these classifications of government workers should be banned. Public safety workers can return to having voluntary associations that work for the betterment of their profession and the community, but allowing them to unionize disrupts the sacred and precarious trust that citizens place in first responders.

Competitive Bidding on All Public Works Projects
Public works projects should always be free to select contractors based on business principles of cost and quality. Using a union contractor should never be a condition of using public funds. Unionized contractors should be free to bid on any public works project in fair and open competition with non-union contractors.

Within these reasonable constraints, unions have a valuable role to play in America’s future. The illustrious past that are the legacy of today’s unions include 40 hour work weeks, safe working conditions, and a host of other safeguards and restraints on predatory employers that we now take for granted. Well over fifty years ago, unions won the historic battles that define them, and instead of reinventing themselves to remain a productive player in American society today, too many of them have become adjuncts to monopolies and governments, tools of economic repression of the many for the benefit of a few.

In America unions have gravitated to the sectors where there is minimal accountability because the employer can just raise taxes and borrow money. In the public sector, executives, scientists, attorneys, doctors and judges now belong to unions. This is an absurd inversion of the mission of unions. These people aren’t blue collar workers who toil in dangerous factories, they are highly educated professionals. Public sector workers can’t have it both ways. If they have higher levels of education than the general population, and deserve higher average pay and benefits as a result, then their skills must be highly marketable. They should not need unions to represent them.

The State Building and Construction Trades Council of California may have more in common than they realize with the so-called conservatives and right-wingers who they likely assume oppose them at every turn. Because the reason the SBCTC is pushing high-speed rail is not because it is the best way to invest in California’s economy. They are pushing high-speed rail because it is the ONLY massive public works project that environmentalists don’t oppose.

If private construction unions care about workers, all workers, than they should push for projects that will invest in California’s future to lower the cost of living for everyone. There are an awful lot of exciting ways to invest in California to make life easier for everyone, all workers, all consumers, all ratepayers: Upgrade roads and freeways to accommodate smart cars that drive on auto-pilot, dig new last-mile utility corridors in every city and suburb to get electricity and telecommunications cables underground, build a LNG terminal off the Central California Coast, begin on-shore slant drilling to extract oil and gas from the Monterey Shale Formation, repair and upgrade aqueducts, bridges and dams, build desalination plants off the Southern California Coast, and in general, unlock restrictions on land development in California to make real estate affordable again to ordinary workers.

To do all this, the SBCTC will need to take on the environmentalist lobby, the public sector unions, and the Wall Street Bankers who massively profit from government deficits, government pension excess, and environmentalist charades such as CO2 auctions. The SBCTC faces a stark choice. They can continue to perpetuate an economically stagnant, elitist status-quo where only select union workers make a decent living while ordinary workers struggle. Or they can be truly pro-worker and embrace a new more competitive role for themselves in the 21st century. They can recognize the true threat to worker prosperity – global bankers and environmentalists who want to auction CO2 emissions permits to enrich themselves, allied with public sector unions who will channel their cut of the proceeds into funding their own payrolls. Focusing on this futile nonsense happens at the expense of the far more beneficial infrastructure projects noted above, and it crushes average consumers and ordinary workers.

It is not anti-union to explore ways to right-size and reform unions, nor is it pro-worker to advocate high-speed rail when there are so many better ways to invest in California’s future.