Despite Massive Union Boss Opposition, DC School Reform Takes Flight

Via the Education Sector's blog, the Washington Post has an excellent article up on DC School Chancellor Michelle Rhee's proposal to create a two-tier pay system to allow administrators to reward teacher excellence in the capital's hidebound public schools.

Rhee's reforms would permit teachers to forgo tenure in favor of higher pay scales based on student achievement, or choose better job security at lower rates of compensation. Predictably, union bosses are fighting the reform tooth-and-nail because it weakens their education stranglehold:

"It's degrading and insulting," said Brocks, to ask that teachers give up tenure and go on probation for a year if they choose the more lucrative of the two salary tiers under the plan, which is at the center of contract negotiations between the city and the Washington Teachers' Union. He said that Rhee wants only to purge older teachers and that for instructors to sell out hard-won protections against arbitrary or unfair dismissal is unthinkable. "For Michelle Rhee or anyone to ask that is like Judas and 30 pieces of silver," Brocks, 59, said.

Apparently it's "degrading and insulting" to demand accountability from a school system that has been wracked by massive corruption scandals and boasts some of the lowest test scores in the country, even when all that the proposal does is allow individual teachers to have one single choice about the terms of their employment. Here's the Government Accountability Office's 2008 report (.pdf) on DC public schools (emphasis mine):

The system serves about 50,000 students and operates 144 schools.1 In fiscal year 2007, its operating budget exceeded $1 billion and the federal government provided funds for about 13 percent of that amount. Long-standing problems with student academic performance, the condition of school facilities, and the overall management of the D.C. school system have been well documented over the last several decades. In particular, the academic challenges facing the District are enormous. In 2007, D.C. public schools ranked last in math scores and second-to-last in reading scores for all tested urban public school systems on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

I particularly enjoyed reading the Education Sector's response to union intransigence (emphasis mine):

There's a certain infantilizing quality to this vision of teacher work, where individuals can't be trusted to make up their own minds about their relationship with management and shouldn't be allowed to make the tradeoff that virtually all well-compensated professionals make: more accountability and less security in exchange for more recognition and compensation.

. . .

So on the one hand you've got an uber-responsive chancellor who reformed the bureaucracy to better support teachers and wants to give them the option to voluntarily enter a system that would pay them a whole lot more money. On the other hand, a union that can't return emails and is notable chiefly for a history of theft and venality so outrageous that it's memorable even by the highly attentuated moral standards of DC municipal government.

Ultimately, this boils down to one thing: union boss control over teachers and their paychecks. If DC teachers are permitted to make their own decisions about their terms of employment, even more DC teachers may discover how unfair it is that they are forced to pay dues to union bosses for "representation" they may not they need or want.

Quick Hits: SEIU Union Boss Corruption, Card Check Lies, and More

A few Right to Work-related updates from around the web:

1.) The Heritage Foundation's Foundry blog helpfully summarizes the corruption allegations surrounding Tyrone Freeman, head of California's SEIU chapter. What's worse, union mismanagement goes all the way to the top. According to the LA Times, SEIU national brass received word of Freeman's corrupt practices six years ago and still failed to act. (This is the same local union against which Foundation attorneys won a federal court settlement securing the return of almost $10 million in illegally seized forced union dues.)

Read the whole entry here.

2.) The New York Sun featured a great editorial yesterday on union bosses' half-hearted efforts at workplace "representation." Money quote:

But even as unions promote counterproductive economic policies, and push for legislation allowing them to essentially force more workers into their ranks, a look at union finances shows that many unions aren't looking after the members they already have — especially their retirement plans.

The Sheet Metal Workers International Union says prominently on its Web site that "Union Members Have Strong Retirement Plans."

But it turns out — as disclosed in unions' mandatory annual financial reports to the Labor Department — that the Sheet Metal workers' union pension plan is underfunded and so risks the future pensions promised to its members. Many other union pension plans are in similar straits.

This isn't an isolated incident, either. Check out the rest of the article for an in-depth look at the glaring disparity between union bosses' lavish salaries and the shortfalls facing rank-and-file workers' pension funds.

3.) Townhall.com has an article up on unions' efforts to ram the misleadingly-titled "Employee Free Choice Act" down workers' throats. The piece also mentions the Foundation's efforts to hold the SEIU accountable for a questionable political fundraising scheme:

In fact, alleged coercion for political gain is already occurring. Recently, The Wall Street Journal reported that the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation asked the Department of Justice to investigate the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). The basis for the request centers on this fact:

“The union adopted a new amendment to its constitution at last month's SEIU convention, requiring that every local contribute an amount equal to $6 per member per year to the union's national political action committee. This is in addition to regular union dues. Unions that fail to meet the requirement must contribute an amount in ‘local union funds’ equal to the ‘deficiency’ plus a 50% penalty.” (The Wall Street Journal, 7/28/08)

Can you name any other company or organization that could compel its membership to fund political organizations that rank and file membership may or may not agree with?

For more information on the Foundation's efforts to deter illegal union campaign fundraising, check out here, here, and here.

Video: Don't Back Down

Workers from across the country have received free legal assistance from the National Right to Work Foundation. Now they're speaking out to encourage others to stand up for their rights in this latest Right to Work video:


As always, check back at the Foundation's YouTube channel for more Right to Work video updates. Many of the workers featured in this week's segment have appeared in previous Foundation video interviews describing their stories in greater detail.

News Release

National Worker Advocate Issues Labor Day Statement:

Leading union watchdog groups issue warning on organized labor’s looming power grabs

Springfield, VA (August 28, 2008) – Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and National Right to Work Committee, made the following statement regarding this year’s Labor Day holiday.

“On Labor Day, many Americans will get a much deserved day off. But as we celebrate the free-enterprise system and the value of hard work, union officials are mounting an unprecedented, billion-dollar campaign effort to grab more forced unionism power. Their goal is to elect a President and a filibuster-proof Senate that will give them even more tools to force workers to join or pay dues to a union.

“Throughout the United States, more than 12 million American workers are already compelled to pay dues or fees to unions as a condition of employment. And millions more workers are required by law to accept a union’s so-called ‘representation,’ even if they would rather negotiate with their employer themselves on their own merits. Today, union bosses are going all out to obtain even more special privileges to help bolster their forced-dues-paying ranks.

“Organized labor is intent on passage of several sweeping bills – including the Card Check Forced Unionism Bill, which would make workers even more vulnerable to union intimidation during union organizing drives, and the Police and Firefighter Monopoly Bargaining Act, which would force hundreds of thousands of America’s first responders into union collectives by federal fiat. The National Right to Work Committee is mobilizing its 2.2 million members to combat these and other bills intended to corral even more workers into forced unionism.

“Meanwhile, many workers feel they have little choice but to pay for organized labor’s billion-dollar 2008 election campaign, and many workers are unaware of their right to object. That’s why the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is providing free legal aid to thousands of employees nationwide seeking to get their money back. In fact, in October Foundation attorneys will argue their fourteenth case accepted by the U.S. Supreme Court – a case which defends the right of workers to refuse to pay for union activism using their mandatory union dues.

“This Labor Day, we commend those courageous American workers who are standing up to union intimidation, harassment, and even violence as they defend their cherished freedoms of conscience, speech, and association. And we work toward the day when no American is forced to pay tribute to an unwanted union.”

An audio clip of President Mix's statement is available here.

The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is a nonprofit, charitable organization providing free legal aid to employees whose human or civil rights have been violated by compulsory unionism abuses. The Foundation, which can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-336-3600, is assisting thousands of employees in over 200 cases nationwide.

Happy Labor Day! (But It's Not So Happy for the Millions of Victims of Compulsory Unionism)

On behalf of the Foundation, I'd like to wish everyone a safe and happy Labor Day weekend. While I hope everyone enjoys their day off, now seems like an appropriate time to flag Foundation President Mark Mix's statement commemorating the occasion. Here's an excerpt:

“Meanwhile, many workers feel they have little choice but to pay for organized labor’s billion-dollar 2008 election campaign, and many workers are unaware of their right to object. That’s why the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is providing free legal aid to thousands of employees nationwide seeking to get their money back. In fact, in October Foundation attorneys will argue their fourteenth case accepted by the U.S. Supreme Court – a case which defends the right of workers to refuse to pay for union activism using their mandatory union dues.

“This Labor Day, we commend those courageous American workers who are standing up to union intimidation, harassment, and even violence as they defend their cherished freedoms of conscience, speech, and association. And we work toward the day when no American is forced to pay tribute to an unwanted union.”

Read the rest of the statement (and download it as an Mp3) here or simply play the YouTube below from the Foundation's YouTube channel:


Maine State Employees Union Boss Could Face One Year In Jail, Forced Unionism Privileges Still Intact

Ah, the Maine State Employees Association. When they're not extorting workers' dues to pay for union activism and legal schemes, MSEA bosses are evidently fond of harassing UPS truck drivers:

Timothy Belcher, the leader [sic] of the state's workers' union, has requested that a jury hear allegations that he illegally blocked a UPS driver from continuing his rounds earlier this summer.

Belcher's attorney, Leonard Sharon, said this week that a trial date has not yet been set in Sagadahoc County Superior Court.

Belcher, 53, the executive director of the Maine State Employee Association, a labor union representing more than 15,000 public and private sector workers throughout Maine, was issued a summons charging him with criminal restraint on June 25 after allegedly standing in front of the UPS drivers' truck to prevent it from leaving the driveway to Belcher's Bowdoinham home.

Criminal restraint is a Class D misdemeanor that carries a maximum potential penalty of a year in jail and a fine, Sharon said.

The MSEA, of course, is one of the parties in the upcoming Foundation Supreme Court case Locke v. Karass. Foundation attorneys seek a court ruling that would put greater teeth into protections for nonunion workers laboring under forced union dues.

Here's how the responding officer described Mr. Belcher's decision-making faculties after the hapless UPS driver called the police:

"He just seemed to be irrational at the time and wasn't making good decisions," [Officer] Rogers said.

Now ask yourself: would you trust Mr. Belcher to manage your hard-earned money? Why should Maine State employees be forced to hand over their hard-earned money to Belcher?

 

Steelworkers Union President Continues Using Todd Palin's Money to Bash His Wife

Two days ago, we posted an entry announcing our offer of free legal aid to Todd Palin if he wishes to stop funding ugly union attacks against his wife. It continues -- the USW's president recently unloaded on Governor Palin and her family at the union's official blog:

At the press conference, Palin trotted him out, stressing his steelworker credentials. Here’s a good union man, she emphasized.

But his United Steelworker card doesn’t include an automatic auxiliary membership for her. Or her running mate at the top of the Republican ticket...

There is a clear disconnect between unions' top bosses and rank-and-file workers. Union chief Leo Gerard -- who, according to his biography, is a Canadian citizen and whose lavish salary is paid with the forced union dues of workers like Todd Palin -- likes to berate people about who they should vote for in American elections.

Todd Palin's unfortunate quandary highlights the injustices of forced unionism. If you are a unionized worker funding political speech you abhor, contact the National Right to Work Foundation or take a close look at the employee rights section of our web site. We provide free legal assistance to workers victimized by compulsory unionism. 

 

News Release

Two Ohio Teachers of Faith Win Right to Refrain From Supporting Objectionable Union

National Education Association Union Agrees to Redirect Forced Dues to Make-a-Wish Foundation

Cincinnati, Ohio (September 24, 2008) – National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys recently obtained settlements with the National Education Association (NEA) union for two teachers whose consciences would not allow them to pay mandatory dues to support a union involved in activities they consider immoral. Geralyn Buening and Tessy Huwer, both practicing Catholics, objected to the NEA’s positions on abortion and special rights for homosexuals.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act forbids discrimination against religious employees and requires companies and unions to attempt to reasonably accommodate employees’ sincerely-held religious beliefs. The obligation to accommodate includes the payment of compulsory union fees, as no employee should be forced to fund a union that engages in activities that offend their religious convictions.

The Ohio teachers originally filed charges against the NEA teacher union with the Ohio Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), alleging that the union was in violation of their rights as religious objectors. In return for withdrawing the charges, the settlement allows the teachers to redirect their mandatory agency fees to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, rather than pay any funds whatsoever to a union hierarchy steeped in objectionable social activism.

The Ohio Education Association (OEA) has a long and abusive record of refusing to accommodate religious objectors in the workplace. National Right to Work Foundation attorneys have helped Ohio teachers in dozens of cases over the last decade involving the OEA and its affiliates. The EEOC has filed suit against OEA affiliates and released findings that OEA affiliates violated the rights of religious objectors. Congress has also investigated the problem of the OEA and its treatment of employees of faith. In fact, one OEA attorney went so far as to tell Carol Katter, a life-long Catholic, that she should “change religions” when she requested a religious accommodation to redirect her union fees to a charitable organization.

“While we applaud the EEOC for working with our legal aid team to reach an equitable settlement, abuses of this nature will continue as long as Ohio lacks a Right to Work law,” said Stefan Gleason, vice president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Making union affiliation completely voluntary is the most effective way to free employees from the abuses of forced unionism.”

The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is a nonprofit, charitable organization providing free legal aid to employees whose human or civil rights have been violated by compulsory unionism abuses. The Foundation, which can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-336-3600, is assisting thousands of employees in over 200 cases nationwide.

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