“The Phonys”

“The Phonys”

It’s award season and the teachers unions have entered the crowded field.

The Oscars. The Grammys. The Tonys. And we now have new award for the teachers unions: “The Phonys.”

Ask any teacher union leader about what they stand for, and you will get an earful about how they champion kids, parents and, of course, teachers. Just recently, American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten, fulminating about Betsy DeVos’ nomination as the new Secretary of Education, proclaimed, “We have an obligation to all children in America. That’s why we fight for parents to have the voice they need and communities throughout the country to have the local decision-making for their schools and the investment they need, so we do everything we can to help all children have a great public education.”

But Randi’s lofty words are, well, just lofty words.

A recent example – in Chicago, A.N. Pritzker Elementary School laid off its librarian after the school year began due to budgetary problems. So a bunch of concerned parents eagerly volunteered to step up and fill the void. In fact, there was so much interest that the parent-teacher organization created a schedule of parent-volunteers so that the library was always staffed when school was in session. But this was unacceptable to the AFT-affiliated Chicago Teachers Union leadership, which dispatched a representative to inform the parents that the librarian job must be filled by a (unionized) teacher. So I guess the predominantly non-white and low-income students will just have to suck it up and live with the union diktat and without any “luxuries” like library books. As for Randi’s “parent voice” and helping “all children have a great public education” – not in her Chicago union. “Phony” nominations to both Randi and CTU.

But New York City’s entry for “The Phony’s” will certainly give CTU some serious competition. The United Federation of Teachers, NYC’s AFT local, spends money like a drunken sailor. Check that: a sailor actually earns his money; the teachers union in NYC (and elsewhere) forcibly takes dues from teachers. According to recent financial disclosures, the UFT has spent millions of dollars in teachers’ dues money on catered meals, tens of thousands on Yankees and Mets tickets, and on trips for the union elite to tourist havens like New Orleans, Orlando and Las Vegas. Also, as the New York Post’s Carl Campanile points out, UFT boss Michael Mulgrew now earns $283,804 (well over 300K when generous perks are thrown in), which is more than Mayor de Blasio makes. Additionally, 65 UFT staffers make over $150,000 a year, nearly double the $80,000 to $85,000 salary of veteran teachers with 10 years’ experience.

When confronted, Mulgrew said – allegedly with a straight face – “We are proud of every nickel we spend on – and on behalf of – our members. Defending public education is increasingly expensive.” A “Phony” nomination goes to Mulgrew and the UFT leadership for pretending that they care about the hard-working teachers whose pockets they are picking.

Michigan became a right-to-work state in 2013, which means that teachers and other workers don’t have to join a union as a condition of employment. But the law stipulates that any collective bargaining agreement on the books at the time the new law went into effect would still be honored.

What’s a union to do when its forced dues scheme is about to fly out the window?! Well, the shrewd folks at the Taylor Federation of Teachers (yet another AFT-affiliate) in Wayne County colluded with the school board and came up with a plan to have the teachers sign a 10-year contract just days before the right-to-work law went into effect. Clever, huh? But the teachers there are hardly celebrating because they got screwed regally in the deal, which included a 10 percent pay cut for the 10-year period. But the union makes out because it gets to collect forced dues for another decade.

Several teachers were not amused by the sleazy deal and sued to have it overturned. They were successful, but the decision was appealed. However, last month the appeals court upheld the original decision favoring the teachers. But not giving up, Mark Cousens, an attorney who represents the district and the union, said that an appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court is being considered. “The district and the union have said the agreement was made to maintain labor peace. The union got a 10-year deal, and the district got a 10 percent pay cut and other concessions from teachers.” Yes, the union got a deal and the teachers in Taylor took a financial drubbing.

A solid “Phony” nomination goes to the union leaders at the Taylor Federation of Teachers who clearly sold out their teachers to line their own pockets.

I have just mentioned three union candidates for “The Phonys,” but there are countless others. Randi Weingarten – who should be prepping for her Red Carpet appearance – and other teacher union leaders talk such a good game, but when the curtain is drawn back, all that’s there is a self-serving agenda. Kids, parents and teachers are mere props for union leaders who line their pockets with worker-supplied gold and do whatever they can to maintain their unwieldy power.

Phonies, one and all.

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.

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