California Teach-In

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

Although the labor union is trying to maintain its grip on the dysfunctional public schools it helped to create, the California Teachers’ Association (CTA) is in danger of losing whatever power it has left.

How dysfunctional are they? The Pacific Research Institute (PRI) paints the prettiest picture. “Only 56 percent of California schools met their adequate yearly progress or AYP, down from 64 percent last year,” according to Xiaochin Claire Yan of the PRI.

Although the CTA, which has opposed every effort at real reform of the state’s public schools, it may not necessarily be the voice of the teaching profession that it claims to be. “Hundreds of thousands of government employees—including firefighters, police officers, nurses, teachers and others—are forced to contribute their hard-earned money to political candidates and issues they oppose,” the Californians for Paycheck Protection (CPP) conclude. “They have no choice.”

“Political dues are automatically deducted from their paychecks.” California, as you might have guessed, is not a right-to-work state and once the union is in the work place, workers have no choice but to join it as a condition of employment.

As we have reported in earlier dispatches, the CTA is fighting a ballot initiative that would make it harder for unions to use members’ dues for political purposes. To fight the Paycheck Protection Initiative, the CTA is slapping a surcharge on members after its executive committee has already mortgaged the state headquarters to build a campaign war chest for the fight.

“Teachers’ unions alone have at least $100 million per year to spend on politics,” the CCP points out. The surcharge gives those unions about $54 million on top of that. The unions admit to spending at least one-third of their members’ original dues money on purposes other than collective bargaining: At least, that is the portion that objecting teachers can get refunded to them, by law.

But many teachers are not thrilled with paying an extra $100 or so on dues that already run as high as $900 per year. At a seminar at the Heritage Foundation on September 1st, Mark Mix of the National Right to Work (NRTW) Legal Defense Fund revealed that a lawsuit is in the works.

And it could not have come at a worse time for the state’s unions. Despite the union’s best efforts the Paycheck Protection Act is favored by the very people the CTA claims it hurts. “Polls confirm support for Proposition 75 at nearly a 2-1 margin, with more than half of public employees in favor of paycheck protection,” the CCP reports. That ratio, of course, includes many teachers on the majority side.

As it happened, one of the potential plaintiffs in the NRTW lawsuit was on the same panel at Heritage with Mix. Dr. Charles Baird, a distinguished economics professor at Cal State-East Bay, fits a rare profile—a free market economist who graduated from and now works within the California state university system.

“My union, the California Faculty Association (CFA) did the same thing that the CTA did,” Dr. Baird said. The CFA added a hefty tip on top of an already considerable membership tab.

“I call my union, the CFA, the Cabal of Feckless Academics,” Dr. Baird says. “They actually managed to decrease my pay and benefits.”

Dr. Baird, who has studied the waning influence of labor unions, observes that the stakes are high for teachers’ unions and other such associations in the Golden State and nationally over Proposition 75 and other political turf wars. “In the mid-1950s, 37% of private sector workers were union members,” Dr. Baird says. “By 2004, only 7.9% were.”

By way of contrast, about a third of government employees are unionized now. Indeed, half of union members are government workers while less than a fifth of the total workforce is on the public payroll.

Ironically, even among California college professors working in the state university system— not a particularly right-wing bunch—compulsory unionism is not popular. At least, it’s something that these pedagogues don’t want for themselves. “On 9 campuses in the University of California system, the faculty voted not to unionize,” Dr. Baird notes.

Malcolm A. Kline is the executive director of Accuracy in Academia.