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Sweatshops, Walmart, TFA, Bart Simpson and Hams for Hanukkah

Teachers unions are busier than ever pointing fingers, forming loopy alliances and making embarrassing gaffes.

A couple of weeks ago Massie Ritsch, assistant communications and outreach point man for Education Secretary Arne Duncan, left his job to take a similar position at Teach For America. And not a moment too soon!

As I wrote last week, the American Federation of Teachers has hopped into bed with the United Students Against Sweatshops. In fact, having given the group $58,650 in 2013-1014, AFT is the USAS’ biggest funder. The Harvard cell of the national group made news when it decided to target Teach For America. According to the Harvard Crimson, “The effort is part of a larger national movement started by United Students Against Sweatshops that criticizes Teach For America, a nation-wide program that recruits college graduates to teach in low-income communities for at least two years, for undermining the quality of public education.” (Emphasis added.)

Undermining public education? Funny, I thought that was the job of the teachers union.

USAS  Harvard also demands that TFA sever ties with anti-union corporations such as Walmart, which funds TFA. Reason’s Nick Gillespie clearly gets the gut-busting hubris,

We’ve all heard the stories about how smart, ambitious, and clean-smelling Harvard students are, right? I mean, Harvard is like the Cadillac of college (and I mean back when Cadillac meant high standards and luxury, not whatever it might mean today), the gold standard in a world of fiat currencies. And the students come from money, with over 45 percent hailing from families pulling in $200,000 a year (and 21 percent coming from the above-$500,000 mark).

So you can rest assured that Harvard students know what they’re talking about. And these days, they’re trying to get the university to pull out of Teach For America if it doesn’t start only placing its participants in unionized public schools. (Emphasis added.)

AEI’s Rick Hess weighs in also,

Fashioning themselves the “United Students Against Sweatshops” (it’s okay to laugh at that), these kids have taken TFA to task for being “the man”—and for turning teaching into sweatshop-like work by allowing some selected recruits to enter the classroom without slogging through the entirety of traditional teacher prep. I’m not sure where the “sweatshop” piece really surfaces here, ed schools have a hard time making the case that their grads are better after the training, and research has suggested that TFA’ers are at least as effective as traditionally trained teachers, but whatevs… Somehow, I don’t think the United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) are all that interested in sweating these details. I’m trying to make allowance for the fact that these complaints are being offered by a bunch of 20-year-olds who don’t know anything and who’ve given every indication that they’re being funded and stage-managed by professional labor organizers who have their own agenda. But still, for reasons that escape me, they’ve been getting a fair bit of attention. (Emphasis added.)

The real problem that AFT-USAS has with TFA is that it places a great number of its teachers in charter schools, which are overwhelmingly union-free. And of course, Walmart has been a long-time punching bag for unionistas and their fellow travelers. The giant chain is not unionized, which has enabled it to keep costs down by not having to wade through the collective bargaining process. If it were up to AFT-USAS, Walmart would be unionized, the result of which would be jacked up wages leading to increased prices, which would mean fewer customers, thus forcing worker lay-offs. Now there’s a great business plan!

The teachers unions’ efforts to defame Walmart know no bounds. AFT president Randi Weingarten thought she was being oh-so-clever when she posted “Really Walmart? Ham for Hanukah” (sic) on Facebook.

Randi ham As EAG’s Kyle Olson points out, this photo is seven years old and was not even taken at Walmart – it was Balducci’s, a gourmet retailer in New York City. (And with all Weingarten’s self-righteous indignation, you’d think she would at least know how to spell Hanukkah!)

Interestingly, after being excoriated for this silly attempt to embarrass Walmart, it took her a week to remove the post. Perhaps though we can cut poor Randi some slack because she is sooooo busy!! In recent months, she has immersed herself in the Middle East (pushing Israel to adopt a “two-state solution”), developed a plan to contain Ebola and traveled to the Ukraine to “promote democratic values.” (Memo to Randi: Maybe consider spending less time play-acting as Secretary of State and tackle the New York City charter school that your union is systematically running into the ground.)

Weingarten has probably been too busy to see a recent episode of The Simpsons, which absolutely skewered the teachers unions.

Jack Lassen, voiced menacingly by Willem Dafoe, was transferred to Bart’s school during what Superintendent Gary Chalmers referred to as the “Dance of the Lemons,” in which school officials practice what little control they have over teacher unions by allowing principals to select their worst teacher to send to another school in the district.

“The union is happy, the parents are placated and only the children suffer,” Chalmers explained.

Lassen — among the group Chalmers refers to as “sociopathic child-haters who are only teachers because they got tenure after two short years” — doesn’t suffer Bart’s foolishness, responding to the mischievous one’s skeleton-in-the-closet prank by buzzing the top of his head with clippers.

When you’ve lost Bart Simpson, you just may have lost the country, as evidenced by the unions’ dismal return on the millions they spent in the November elections.

But back to USAS. Gillespie ended his Reason post with the following:

The Harvard prodigies and the organizers at USAS are about the last people standing who think that unionizing teachers is the last, best hope of improving American education, especially for students from lower-income, higher-risk-for-failure backgrounds. Good luck to them as their reactionary attitudes leave them further and further in the rear-view window as the rest of the country moves into a future of increased options for all, regardless of family income and ability to pay.

All I can add to that, Nick, is a hearty “Amen!!”

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.

When Teachers Unions Attack

Coca Cola, Teach For America, Walmart and banks are the latest targets of Big Labor.

Attempting to get over the millions of dollars they spent backing losers in the November election, America’s teachers unions are on a mission to find new bogeymen. First victim: Coca Cola. Yup, the American Federation of Teachers has adopted a resolution which claims that “three general secretaries of the union representing Coca-Cola workers in Guatemala City and five workers were killed, and four more workers were kidnapped.” (To read the rest of the pathetic guilt-by-association allegations, go here.) But the real reason the union is pillorying our national soft drink is because “Coca-Cola circumvents its own code of conduct by hiring workers through subcontracting rather than hiring permanent employees.”

There it is. AFT’s real gripe is that Coke is hiring non-union workers. (Rumors that the union went after Coke because it thought that the company was owned by those two evil brothers from Kansas are unfounded.)

As The Daily Caller’s Eric Owens points out,” The anti-Coke gambit is the latest in a bizarro month even by the standards of America’s teachers unions.”

While AFT is busy defaming Coke, the National Education Association has been focusing on student debt, and recently kicked off a “Degrees Not Debt Week of Action.” Of course, what the union doesn’t mention is that in order to get potential teachers and other college grads off the hook, the beleaguered taxpayers would have to assume the debt. The union also neglects to acknowledge that organized labor has played an important role in the escalating costs of getting a college degree. Referring to the University of California, Jon Coupal points out that the driving force behind tuition hikes is the growing unfunded liability of pension funds and “other items of questionable compensation for unionized faculty.” Coupal quotes Wall Street Journals Allysia Finley,

UCs this year needed to spend an additional $73 million on pensions, $30 million on faculty bonuses, $24 million on health benefits and $16 million on collectively bargained pay increases. The regents project that they will require $250 million more next year to finance increased compensation and benefit costs.

Ms. Napolitano [President of the University of California] says that the UCs have cut their budgets to the bone, yet her own office includes nearly 2,000 employees—a quarter of whom make six-figure salaries. An associate vice president of federal government relations earns $273,375 a year, plus $55,857 in retirement and health benefits, according to the state controller’s office.  Thirty professors at UC Santa Cruz rake in more than $200,000 in pay, and most faculty can retire at 60 and receive a pension equal to 75% of their final salary. More than 2,100 retirees in the university retirement system collected six-figure pensions in 2011.

At the same time the teachers unions are trying to shaft the taxpayer, they pretend to really, really care about the little guy. In a press release, AFT accuses Wall Street of “costing schools, municipalities billions.” The union’s hellfire-and-brimstone document informs us that banks took advantage of poor lil’ ol’ educators by charging interest on money they never should have had to borrow in the first place. (Okay, I added that last part.) Never one to mince words, Chicago Teacher Union president (and member in good standing of the International Socialist Organization) Jesse Sharkey proclaimed, “The banks owe us a rebate of hundreds of millions of dollars, which we should invest in 50 sustainable community schools with robust wraparound services, restorative justice programs, low class sizes and sufficient staffing levels.”

Despite Mr. Sharkey’s attempts to wage class warfare, there is absolutely no evidence that the banks are guilty of anything but doing legal business. But why let the truth get in the way of a good Marxist narrative?

And then there is the AFT’s embrace of “United Students Against Sweatshops.” (Yes, Virginia, there really is such a loopy organization, and its biggest funder is AFT. USAS deserves a post of its own which I will get to in the near future.)  With chapters all over the country, the apparent raison d’être of the USAS Harvard franchise is to drive Teach For America into the sea. Why? Because TFA, which places idealistic young teachers in tough-to-staff schools, takes funding from the Walton Foundation, which of course is the philanthropic arm of Walmart, which, according to USAS, is trying to privatize public education, which it shouldn’t do because it will cost the teachers unions countless members, which will destroy their bottom line… or something like that.

The common thread running through the latest teachers union gambits is a strong animosity toward the American way of doing business, especially when it interferes with their hegemony. They are anti-capitalist – never mind that capitalism has been the driving force in cutting world poverty in half over the last 20 years – and pro-socialism, which strives for equality, even though people who live under such a system are equally miserable. But the unions, which took a real thumping on Election Day, may be overplaying their hand. It seems that the citizenry has figured out that the teachers unions provide no good solutions. Indeed, they’re an integral part of many of the educational and fiscal problems we face today.

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.