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5-21-15 Board Comments
May Budget Update
Dear Colleagues and Community Members,
Public-sector unions are currently under attack throughout our country. If we don't stand together, the results will adversely affect our future employment and ultimately the quality of our local schools. As you're probably aware, there is a great deal of media propaganda these days claiming public schools are failing. There is a pervasive narrative blaming “bad teachers” protected by union leaders like me as the reason. Such important factors as family income, language background, and funding are completely ignored. According to this faulty logic, the only good teacher is young and non-union, and the only good school is a charter. Anyone who sets foot in an Evergreen classroom knows these inaccurate and inflammatory statements are patently ridiculous.
Here in California, CTA has been successfully fighting a series of anti-public education legislation for more than a decade. However, our corporate adversaries are now turning to lawsuits to push their for-profit agenda.
Last year, the Vergara lawsuit alleged many teachers were "grossly ineffective" and claimed to be about student civil rights. Funded by Michelle Rhee & Students First, what they're really after is removing our due process and seniority rights. In August, Judge Rolf Treu ignored the actual courtroom testimony along with educational research about the importance of having an experienced teacher in the classroom and issued a preliminary ruling eliminating these rights. CTA along with the Dept. of Education is appealing the decision and should prevail, but it could end up in the Supreme Court. How would our professional life be changed if we no longer had the right to due process or could suddenly be laid off for disciplinary or economic reasons? How could we speak out for what’s best for kids?
Another lawsuit against CTA (Friedrichs) is going after agency fee as well as automatic payroll deduction for union dues. It alleges teachers' civil rights have been lost because we can't “choose” whether to belong. The true goal is undercutting a union's ability to maintain a level playing field at the bargaining table and the ballot box.
Wisconsin lost agency fee two years ago when their governor signed legislation in the middle of the night attached to a trailer bill. Instead of educating their members about the value of staying with the union, the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC) expended a great deal of time and resources trying unsuccessfully to recall Gov. Scott Walker. In the aftermath, nearly 25% of their members did not sign up. Since then, they have lost 6% of their salary and are paying more for their benefits and pension. More recently, many of those who left decided to rejoin WEAC, but much has been lost in the meantime.
California has had agency fee legislation since 1977, and Evergreen finally joined the movement in the late 90s. The underlying concept is everyone benefits from having a negotiated contract and grievance procedures, therefore each of us should pay our fair share towards the cost of maintaining such important rights. While the Friedrich case will be defeated here, we believe it will be heard by the Supreme Court, which currently has a 5 - 4 conservative majority. It is this judicial body that brought us the Citizens United decision declaring corporations are people and money equals free speech, which opened the flood gates to political contributions from billionaires. We expect an adverse ruling in the Friedrichs case, which will eliminate agency fee across the country for all public-sector unions.
Unfortunately, the bad news doesn't stop there. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signed legislation two months ago making it the 25th "Right to Work" state. A blatant misnomer since every American over the age of 16 already has that right, these laws are designed to weaken collective bargaining. In Wisconsin, the only negotiable item is salary. WEAC now has the "right" to bargain anything from a pay cut up to, but not exceeding, the cost of living. Everything else is considered district purview (nonnegotiable) including working conditions which we know equal the learning environment of students. Mr. Walker is now running for president and has pledged to dismantle all unions and make the entire country "Right to Work."
When I started teaching 30 years ago, three quarters of the states had collective bargaining laws. Now, the right to work movement is growing. Why? Here are two of the biggest reasons.
The Koch brothers were born into wealth and own an energy company among many other assets. In 2002, their individual net worth was $2 billion. By 2012, it was $40 billion each. They are investing in initiatives throughout the country designed to eliminate collective bargaining. One particular group has received a great deal of money, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which creates boilerplate anti-union/Right to Work legislation and promotes it in all 50 states.
Believe it or not, there is some good news amidst all of this nastiness! Michigan also lost collective bargaining rights, but they learned from their neighbors to the west. They took the time to educate their members about the importance of choosing union membership and only a small percentage of their teachers made the short-sighted decision to leave.
Whatever happens going forward, we need to continue to stand together as a union - the Evergreen Teachers Association.
We will benefit from that important decision, as will the students we advocate for and teach each and every day.
Brian Wheatley, ETA President
408-272-0601 ext. 215
Dates to Remember
'15-16 Re-Opener Negotiations Day 1 - May 27 (Mt. Ham)
ETA Retirement Celebration - June 2 (JFS @ 3:45 pm)
Leadership Conference - Sept. 18-20 (Fairmont)