Category Archives: Unions

Because of Trump, American Federation of Teachers union lost 76,000 members and $18M in dues revenue

Founded in Chicago in 1916, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) is the second largest teacher’s labor union in America, the largest being the National Education Association (NEA). 

Members’ dues underwrite much of AFT’s political activities.

Since 1980, AFT and the NEA have contributed nearly $57.4 million to federal campaigns, an amount that is about 30% higher than any single corporation or other union. About 95% of political donations from teachers unions have gone to Democrats:

  • In 2008, AFT donated $1,997,375.00 to the presidential campaign of Barack Obama, and $1,784,808.59 to the campaign of Hillary Clinton.
  • The AFT endorsed Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential race — Hillary and AFT president Randi Weingarten are longtime friends. Some AFT members felt the endorsement did not reflect the wishes of rank-and-file AFT members because they supported socialist Bernie Sanders.

According to Department of Labor filings, Weingarten, 61, earned nearly $560,000 in total compensation during the 2013-2014 school year.

On June 27, 2018, in a landmark but narrow 5:4 decision in Janus v. AFSCME, the Supreme Court ruled that public sector union dues violate the First Amendment by compelling nonmembers to “subsidize private speech on matters of substantial public concern”. Unions will, subsequently, need to gain the affirmative consent of individual teachers before enrolling them in the AFT and NEA.

The Supreme Court’s Janus ruling led directly to the cancellation of membership by a substantial portion of teachers in the American Federation of Teachers (AFT).

Sean Higgins reports for Washington Examiner, Oct. 9, 2019, on the effects of the Supreme Court’s Janus v. AFSCME ruling in the year since:

  • AFT lost 76,000 members and $18 million in dues revenue.
  • AFT membership declined 4% to 1.7 million members, and would have declined even more if AFT had not made a grassroots outreach to build up its membership by adding 8,000 full-time teachers and 8,000 retiree members.
  • In a recent Labor Department filing, AFT reported having lost some  82,000 “agency fee” payers — from more than 85,000 the previous year to just 3,000. Agency fee payers are people who are not members of a union but are covered by a collective bargaining contract which requires them to pay a union a regular fee. The Supreme Court’s Janus ruling, however, means agency fee payers no longer are required to pay a fee to the AFT. The remaining agency fee payers are all at private-sector schools, because the Janus ruling doesn’t cover private-sector employment.

Conservatives must remember this when you find yourself unhappy with President Trump:

The narrow majority of five justices are Alito, Roberts, Kennedy, Thomas, and Gorsuch.

The landmark Janus v. AFSCME ruling and the American Federation of Teachers’ loss of members and $18 million in revenue were made possible entirely because of President Trump’s nomination and the U.S. Senate’s confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Gorsuch, who replaced the late Justice Antonin Scalia, joined the four justices (Alito, Roberts, Kennedy and Thomas) in the majority ruling.

~Eowyn

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Union backing de Blasio 2020 bid scores major City Hall favor

From NY Post: Mayor Bill de Blasio has ordered the Department of City Planning to study mandatory permitting for all new hotels across the city, an unprecedented move that would give the politically powerful Hotel Trades Council tremendous leverage.

The move comes as de Blasio banks on that union’s support for his quixotic presidential bid, igniting a new round of criticism from good-government groups over pay-to-play behavior from a City Hall badly tarnished by a string of campaign finance scandals.

“At a minimum, it creates the appearance of impropriety and illegality,” said Susan Lerner, the head of good government group Common Cause. “The mayor keeps setting up situations that beg for a pay-to-play interpretation.”

Despite the appearances, de Blasio denied any impropriety. “That’s just inaccurate in every way,” he told NY1’s Errol Louis Monday night.

Special permitting would require any developer seeking to build a new hotel to go through an exhaustive review process, including community board recommendations and City Council approval, before they could start construction, even if the land is already zoned for commercial and hotel uses.

Only hotels opened in recently rezoned neighborhoods like Midtown East or in manufacturing areas are currently covered by such a requirement.

“This is a political decision by the mayor, not a land-use decision,” said Kenneth Fischer, a former Brooklyn councilman and land-use expert.

“That doesn’t mean that it’s a quid pro quo,” he added. “[De Blasio] believes that union membership for hotel workers is a path to the middle class and their political and ideological interests line up on this issue.”

City Planning officials confirmed Monday that the administration requested the study based on conversations that began around April — just a month before de Blasio launched his flailing presidential campaign. They added there is no firm deadline for the study to be finished.

Crain’s New York Business first reported the news.

De Blasio narrowly avoided state and federal indictment in 2017 for trading favors with donors to a nonprofit controlled by his allies, the Campaign for One New York.

And campaign finance watchdogs have filed complaints with the Federal Elections Commission over de Blasio’s use of loosely regulated political groups to help pay for his White House run.

“He keeps taking the wrong lessons from these reprimands – that he can get away with things, rather than stop doing them,” Lerner added. “It’s deeply upsetting and completely objectionable.”

City Hall offered a different spin on the turn of events. “This is not new — it’s been in discussion for years,” said de Blasio spokeswoman Jane Meyer. “There’s nothing more to it.”

DCG

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Chicago Teachers Union group take trip to Venezuela, praise socialist leader

The American public education system at work: Teachers crowdfunding a trip to Venezuela only to come back and teach your children about the greatness of socialism.

From MSN: The recent trip to Venezuela by a group calling itself a Chicago Teachers Union delegation has upset some union members and expats who question the point of the tour and take issue with the group’s praise of the country’s disputed government.

The four travelers, who crowdfunded the July trip under the banner of the CTU, met with Venezuelan government officials and educators, visited a commune and were featured in local media.

They wrote online about wanting to connect with Venezuelan teachers, students and unionists, criticized U.S. economic sanctions against the South American nation and wrote admiringly of its socialism, its communes and high literacy rates.

Critics say the group glossed over Venezuela’s ongoing political and economic crises and were excessively complimentary of President Nicolas Maduro, whose administration has been accused in recent United Nations reports of “grave” human rights violations and violence against dissenters.

“I am appalled a delegation representing themselves as CTU went to Venezuela, not to support striking teachers, not to object to human rights violations, but to go on what appears to be a state-chaperoned propaganda tour,” said Karen Moody, a teacher and union member.

And though the four travelers regularly called themselves a “CTU delegation” online, the union representing close to 25,000 people has sought to distance itself from the trip, stating the CTU did not endorse, sponsor or fund the trip.

Asked on WTTW’s “Chicago Tonight” last week about “some controversy” surrounding the excursion, union President Jesse Sharkey said: “Members go all kinds of places in the summer. This was neither an official trip nor something that was funded by the union. This is a group of people who are members of the CTU who decided to go to Venezuela.

Yet, the official CTU Twitter account retweeted some of the group’s updates, including a blog post titled “Introduction to CTU Delegation to Venezuela.”

CTU also retweeted another post by teacher Sarah Chambers, one of the travelers and a member of the CTU executive board, which read: “While staying in #Venezuela, we didn’t see a single homeless person. USA is the richest country in the world; yet, there are homeless people everywhere. Over 17k CPS students are homeless … This is why @CTULocal1 is fighting for fair housing #CTUAgainstVezIntervention.”

Not a homeless person in Venezuela…

That prompted a rebuke from another Twitter user: “What the Delegation fails to acknowledge is they used the CTU name to raise the funds, to set up meetings, to blog their ‘findings.’ This was never voted on. They don’t get it. Irresponsible and reckless.”

Chambers, who appears to have made her Twitter account private, responded by referencing a resolution passed by CTU’s House of Delegates to “oppose the invasion of Venezuela.”

She added in her tweet: “Have you visited Venezuela & spoke to 100s there? As a teacher, I teach my students to be critical thinkers, to get primary sources, listen to ppl’s stories & do research before just believing any news. I suggest you do the same.”

Blackout in Venezuela

When contacted by the Tribune, Chambers deferred to the group’s blog, Radical Educator Collective. The three who traveled with her – two other educators and a union organizer – did not respond to interview requests. Online, the group was clear the union wasn’t helping pay for the trip. At least 55 people donated to a GoFundMe campaign titled “Send CTU Strikers to Venezuela,” an apparent reference to their involvement in the CPS charter school strikes last school year.

In the photo accompanying the campaign, the three educators are wearing CTU hats. In comments, some donors expressed solidarity. One $50 donor wrote of admiration for his colleagues: “Proud of the CTU for their brave and visionary anti-imperialist resolution and enactment of ‘teacher-to-teacher’ solidarity between Chicago and Venezuelan teachers!”

A July 9 blog post titled “Introduction to CTU Delegation to Venezuela” states, “This blog represents the members delegation of the Chicago Teacher’s Union that are currently in Venezuela to learn from educators and activists on the ground. We are three rank and file charter school teachers and one CTU organizer. We organized this delegation ourselves and fundraised for the trip independent of the CTU.”

In the latest post, one member of the group wrote that she’d wanted to observe a method for teaching reading that combines numeracy and literacy skills. She was also curious about if and how educators incorporated the country’s social movements into their curriculum, she wrote.

They visited a commune and talked to educators involved with Mision Robinson, a social welfare program to improve literacy started under former President Hugo Chavez.

Though the group was inspired by the resolution, the opinions on the blog are their own, they wrote.

Ana Gil-Garcia, who co-founded the Illinois Venezuelan Alliance and teaches in the College of Education at Northeastern Illinois University, said the trip was unacceptable, though it would be different if they’d gone on their own, without using the CTU brand.

“Once you go there as a delegation of a very powerful union like the Chicago Teachers Union, it’s questionable,” Gil-Garcia said, adding the trip could come off as the union endorsing the Maduro regime, which she said has killed and imprisoned opponents and contributed to widespread food shortages in the country.

“That’s what makes me really upset about it,” she said. “The Chicago Teachers Union should be very objective because the membership is formed by people with different ways of thinking.”

Read the whole story here.

See also:

Socialist Venezuela in 5th day of nationwide blackout
Chaos in Venezuela: Death toll rises and protests rage on amid blackout
Paging Sean Penn: Venezuelan women sell hair, breast milk & sex to survive as country crumbles
Venezuela socialist nightmare: Dead buried in plastic wrap because family can’t afford a casket

DCG

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How progressive: Striking LA teachers turn to social media to shame substitutes

From NY Post: Some striking Los Angeles teachers are trying to teach picket-line crossers a lesson — by posting their names on social media.

“These subs crossed our picket line,” Deanna Cambell posted on Twitter Monday — with a list of substitutes working to keep the second-largest school system in the nation open.

Only a third of the students showed up for classes Monday, the first day of the strike, costing the district $25 million in state funding based on attendance, according to The Los Angeles Times. After subtracting $10 million in unpaid wages for the strikers, the district lost $15 million.

The students who did go to school were taught by a skeletal staff that struggled to keep them engaged.

“It’s clearly having a big impact,” Los Angeles schools Superintendent Austin Beutner said. “We need our educators back in our classrooms inspiring students.”

Meanwhile, some students joined the United Teachers Los Angeles union and its 31,000 members on the picket line with their parents. “My parents support me,” high school sophomore Rea Angeli told the Times, adding she plans to be out on the picket line until Wednesday. “Teachers do a lot for us.”

“After the strike, it’s better not to go back to school,” the 15-year-old said. “You’re crossing the picket line. It’s not helping the teachers. If you can [avoid going to] to school, it’s a little action. It helps them a lot, so why not do it?”

The Teamsters Local 399 union urged production companies filming at school location to stand with them too. “Teamsters don’t cross picket lines!” the union said, according to Deadline. “If you are filming on a location at a school that has an active picket line you do not have to cross. We urge members to stand in solidarity with educators by honoring their picket lines.”

Educators are demanding better pay, smaller class sizes and more support staff in the union’s first strike in the City of Angels in 30 years.

DCG

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Saturday funnies!

 

 

 

DCG

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Progressive Baltimore: Guess the value of the school district’s maintenance backlog

Baltimore City Schools CEO Santelises: fighting a losing battle…

In March this year, Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh authorized spending $100,000 to send 60 buses full of kids to the “March for Our Lives” anti-gun rally in DC.

Many noted at the time that the school district had a $130 MILLION budget deficit last year so the last thing they needed to be doing was wasting money to indoctrinate students against the Second Amendment. Yet the mayor persisted.

So along with a budget deficit, take a wild guess as to what the value is of the school’s maintenance backlog! Take a guess then guess again. Ready for the value?

According to the Baltimore Sun, the total value of the school district’s maintenance backlog is nearly $3 BILLION. That’s more than double the district’s annual operating budget.

More from the Sun’s report:

“We do have the oldest school buildings in the state of Maryland. That can’t change from a quip or from a magic wand,” says city schools CEO Sonja Santelises. Addressing the backlog in repairs, she says, is “not going to happen overnight.”

It’s become a back-to-school tradition for politicians and community members to decry the lack of adequate air conditioning in Baltimore classrooms. The conditions, which forced dozens of schools to close early during the sweaty first days of the school year, led Gov. Larry Hogan and Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot to demand that all city schools be outfitted with AC in the next few years. That’s meant funding for air conditioning has taken precedence over other pressing projects.

The Baltimore school board approved a report this month that lays out the city’s complex needs. The 2018-2019 Comprehensive Maintenance Plan is clear: After decades of underinvestment, the city school system needs a dramatic infusion of money before its school buildings have a chance at being up to par.”

Read the whole Sun story here.

Granted, this financial crisis didn’t start under CEO Santelises. According to Wikipedia, the crisis was first discovered in 2003 where it was believed they had a deficit of anywhere from $54 to 64 million. The district budget has been accused of having many errors and was not being monitored carefully.

And the school’s budget deficit has continued to climb to $130 million since 2003. This deficit, combined with the $3 BILLION maintenance backlog, equals a number that is more than the projected budget deficit of some 20 states.

Good luck Baltimore, you’re going to need it, along with some serious fiscal discipline.

DCG

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#DeepStateUnmasked: IRS officials, “You should give increased scrutiny to conservatives”

DCG

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Big government at work: Cost for Sea-Tac Airport project soars from $608 million to almost a BILLION

Can you imagine how many private contractors would go out of business if they couldn’t estimate construction costs properly and had overruns of over 50 percent on originally estimated costs? Course they have to make a profit – government bureaucrats don’t have to worry about details like that.

The Port of Seattle operates Sea-Tac International Airport. They are building a new International Arrivals Facility as the current one is 44 years old and needs updating. From the Port’s press release in August 2017:

“National and local leaders came to the Port of Seattle today to celebrate the official groundbreaking for a new International Arrivals Facility (IAF) at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. The new facility will dramatically improve the experience for international travelers and better meet the region’s demand for business and tourism-related international service.

Scheduled to open in late 2019, the new 450,000-square-foot, multi-level facility will be built to the east of the current Concourse A.

The current 44-year-old facility no longer meets demand. Originally designed to serve just 1,200 passengers per hour, it now serves an average of over 2,000 passengers per hour during peak periods. The new IAF will increase passenger capacity to 2,600 passengers per hour, while improving the customer experience by nearly doubling the number of gates capable of serving international wide-body aircraft and more than doubling the Passport Check positions and kiosks.

The current budget for the IAF is $766 million. Funding for the project will come from a combination of airport generated revenues, passenger facility charges (PFCs) and revenue bonds. As with virtually all airport projects, no Port of Seattle levy taxes will be used to fund the project.”

The Port issued a press release on Sept. 11 indicating the new project cost and schedule:

“An independent review panel convened by the Port of Seattle Commission identified the scope and complexity of the program and the “supercharged” local construction market as the primary reasons for higher budget estimates for the new IAF at Sea-Tac.

The Executive Review Panel (ERP) provide their report to commissioners today, finding that the negotiated Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP) of $773 million for construction and May 31, 2020, completed construction schedule are both “reasonable and achievable.” The IAF will open to passengers in August 2020, following extensive systems and user testing by the Port, airlines, and federal agencies.

The final cost to the Port, including $76 million in sales tax and additional Port costs, will be $968 million.

The Commission-directed review found the program’s final budget estimate of $773.9 million in construction elements and total program cost of $968.4 million is reasonable for the scope of the projects in this over-heated construction market. The panel also found the schedule to be achievable if the parties approach the work with a sense of urgency. The panel cited the following components for the cost increase and schedule changes: increased scope, tight construction market, complexity of program, and need for improved Port/Contractor relationship and clearer decision structures.”

The Seattle Times notes that the original budget for this project was $608 million. And now it’s at $968 million and scheduled to open eight months later.

One of the review panel members is quoted as saying, “There are reasons to have confidence and that these projections are good projections.”

The article also notes how the leadership of each side of the project have been changed to allow a “fresh start.”

I have confidence that the project costs will go even higher. That’s how big government works.

DCG

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SF Mayor commits $100 million to modular housing factory, predicts savings of $50,000 per unit

Mayor London Breed: Taking a $100 million risk with taxpayer dollars

Like many west coast, progressive run cities, San Francisco has a homeless crisis. The city has doubled the amount of taxpayer money they spend on the crisis and as of 2017 there were almost 7,500 homeless citizens.

The homeless are allowed to defecate and urinate on the streets and also use drugs. I’ve chronicled the many problems on the streets of San Francisco. See the following posts:

Yesterday Mayor London Breed announced that taxpayers will be committed to spending $100 million to attract a modular housing factory to build more affordable housing. See her press release here.

Excerpts from her press release:

  • Mayor London N. Breed today announced a commitment of $100 million in City taxpayer funding to purchase affordable housing made using modular construction built in San Francisco. The commitment represents the first production order for a new modular housing facility that will be built in the City in partnership with the San Francisco Building Trades.
  • The City selected the international design firm Nelson Worldwide to conduct a feasibility study for a new modular housing factory on Port-controlled industrial lands. Nelson Worldwide has already started conducting stakeholder meetings, data collection, and analysis necessary to support a future facility to determine capital investment requirements, operational and staffing goals, and supply and demand targets. The second phase of the feasibility study, expected to be completed by the end of year, will develop the business plan for the future factory.
  • “We are in a housing crisis and the reality is we need to produce affordable housing much quicker than we currently do, or we will continue to see displacement of our low and middle-income communities,” said Mayor Breed. “By building a modular housing factory in our own backyard, we can create housing faster and more cost-effectively, while also creating great union jobs in partnership with our labor leaders.”

Whenever government utters the words “cost-effective” and “union jobs” in the same sentence, I question what they have been smoking.

Anyhow, the good mayor left some details out of her press release that I came across in the SF Chronicle story. For example:

  • The city does not know at this time who will run the facility.
  • The mayor hopes the city’s promise to buy modular homes will entice an operator to open a facility.
  • The modular housing manufacturer won’t be providing any homes for YEARS.
  • The city is hoping that modular homes could bring down construction costs by 10 percent as technology improves.
  • Of the total cost for a modular home and land (up to $800,000), city taxpayers fund approximately $350,000 per unit after grants and other funding sources.
  • The mayor thinks the city can shave $50,000 off the cost of each unit.
  • The city is estimating that the $100 million will provide around 400 apartment units.

Read the SF Chronicle article here.

There’s quite a bit of “hopes,” “thinks,” and “estimates” in this taxpayer-funded project.

I think it’s cute that the mayor can make a prediction of cost savings per unit when the feasibility study isn’t even complete. Is she an expert in predicting future construction costs and real estate market values?

I understand a long-term solution is desirable yet question just how competently a progressive, government-run project can effectively solve any issue. One thing I know for sure, that union endorsement is going to pay off for the Teamsters.

DCG

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Oregon governor chooses demorat donor to manage PERS disaster, donor has no pension experience

Shenoy (l) being rewarded for donating to Gov. Brown (r)

The State or Oregon Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) is in a big financial hurt. In February 2017 it had $22 BILLION in unfunded liabilities, owing more money to former employees than they have in the bank.

In April this year, the New York Times did a story on Oregon’s PERS calling it a “severe, self-inflicted crisis.”

Read the whole New York Times story here as they describe how a former university president draws $76,111 per month, a former football coach draws more than $46,000 per month, and that more than 2,000 employees will soon draw a monthly pension in excess of $100,000 per month.

As a result of the financial crisis of PERS, many essential government services are “slashed.”

So who better to manage this whopping financial crisis? A former CFO and accountant who has a background in pension management information technology.

Last Thursday, the governor announced she chose Sadhana Shenoy to lead the PERS board as “she’s extremely bright” and has “great technical expertise.”

Shenoy will need to be confirmed by the state senate.

According to Oregon Live: “…Shenoy lacks any direct experience in pension management or administration. That’s experience that governor’s office originally said it was looking for in a new board chair, and background that could come in handy at a time when the administrative complexity and political profile of the system are rising.

Shenoy said, “I have the technical skills and background to lead a board oversee (sic) the management of PERS Funds with responsibility, acumen and foresight. These skills include a sound background in Finance, Accounting and Mathematics and working proficiency in modeling tools and techniques.

One interesting item that Oregon Live reports: “With Thomas’ resignation and Shenoy’s confirmation by the Senate, it (the PERS Board) would be made up entirely of Portland-area Democrats – one a union leader and two others, including Shenoy, who are donors to Brown’s campaign.”

The PERS Board is supposedly a “bipartisan” entity. Well, as much as it can be in progressive Oregon.

Read the whole Oregon Live story here.

While I understand that donors are typically rewarded with posts, is it too much to ask that taxpayer pension dollars be managed by people who have actual experience with pension management?

Most of the people commenting on the Oregon Live article are not pleased with the Governor’s choice. Elections have consequences.

DCG

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