The choice between unions becoming more ecumenical or more radical has been made.
In the run-up to the Janus decision, some thought a victory for the plaintiff would lead to the teachers unions becoming more politically balanced by embracing at least some conservative candidates and causes as a way to ensure the uninterrupted flow of union dues. Others suggested the unions would double down and choose ideology over money.
The National Education Association convention at the beginning of the month gave us a clue which theory would become reality when the union passed quite a few über liberal New Business Items, maintained its lopsided leftward political spending, and gave rogue quarterback Colin Kaepernick a human rights award. And here in the Golden State, the California Teachers Association continues its one-way spending on progressive initiatives and endorsed 35 state legislators in the June primary – all Democrats.
A week after the NEA convention, the other national teachers union, the American Federation of Teachers held its yearly wingding and left absolutely no doubt as to its future political direction. On Day 1, Hillary Clinton received AFT’s Women’s Rights Award, which is given to “a woman whose vision and courage have raised the game for other women.” Interesting choice. Here is a woman whose husband could have a wing of his own in the #MeToo museum. As has been well documented, Hillary’s role in her husband’s philandering and alleged rape was to attack the victimized women.
After Clinton’s appearance, the convention veered further left. Senator Elizabeth Warren spit out all the usual pro-union shibboleths, including denouncing President Trump for appointing a “union-busting Supreme Court justice, Neil Gorsuch.” (Gorsuch was the deciding vote in the Janus decision, which freed public employees from having to pay a union as a condition of employment.)
And then the throng got to feel the Bern. Yes sir, the senescent socialist Senator from Vermont took the stage and had the fawning crowd on its feet as he belched out his socialist claptrap. He said it is good news that, “all over this country, people are standing up and fighting for a progressive agenda. There is a political revolution sweeping across this country.” He then plowed through every lefty cliché imaginable, claiming that the Supreme Court does the bidding of the powerful, and that “racism, sexism, homophobia, and xenophobia are threatening to cripple America.” (If nothing else, you have to wonder about a guy who, proudly honeymooned 30 years ago in the Soviet Union, which he reported was “dotted with meetings, interviews and diplomatic functions.”)
In fact, Bernie is AFT’s guy. The resolutions passed by the union at the convention would make any socialist proud. Universal health care – whether single-payer or MediCare for All, full public funding for, and free tuition at all public colleges and universities, and universal, full-day, and cost-free child care are what AFT wants for the country. Additionally, the union resolved to double per-pupil expenditures for low-income K-12 districts and to “tax the rich” to fully fund “IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), Title I and state allocations to public colleges and universities.”
Of course all this free stuff ain’t really free; it would mean a huge tax increase for you and me. Left unmentioned among all the tax-hike talk is that AFT pulls in about $332,000,000 a year and pays nary a penny in taxes.
Chicago Teachers Union vice-president Jesse Sharkey was truly overwhelmed by the goings-on. Attempting to fire up the throng, he began to yell, “Whose schools? Our schools!” (Call me old-fashioned but whenever I hear someone like Sharkey, a leading member of the revolutionary International Socialist Organization talk about “our schools” it gives me the creeps.)
In addition to all the above, the American Federation of Teachers donated almost $33 million to candidates, PACs, etc. in 2016, with a mere $10,700 going to Republicans/conservatives. OpenSecrets.org reports that since 1990, AFT has spent $114 million on politics with a scant .3 percent going rightward.
AFT claims to have 1.7 million members nationwide. Its convention, along with NEA’s, has left no doubt about the immediate future of teacher union political spending. However, if every dissident teacher – conservative, libertarian or even apolitical – stood up and demanded a change, there could be more balance. But if the unions then still persist in their socialist ways, the dissenters should keep their $1,000+ yearly dues money for themselves, and say do svidaniya to a union that sees them as nothing more than an ATM to promote their far left agenda.
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.