Unions under attack but fighting back


The attack on unions is in full swing. The urgency of the moment, the strength we have when we act together, and the need to reach out today and every day are greater than ever. We need to connect with our union brothers and sisters, to ask each other about our fears and our hopes - and to ask what we want for our students, our schools, our colleges, our communities and ourselves. From these conversations, we will knit the fabric of union activism and strength that will sustain us and build our power.

Agency Fee Case Before the Supreme Court

Oral arguments were heard by the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday on Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. This anti-union lawsuit, backed by the Koch brothers, the Center for Individual Rights and other right-wing interests, is seeking to make all states so-called "Right to Work" states by denying unions the right to collect "agency fees" from public employees who receive union services but do not pay dues.

Go here to read about the case, here for our comment on it, and here for an excellent column by Richard Kahlenberg in The New York Times.

By the way, Right to Work should be renamed RIGHT TO WORK FOR LESS, since that's the reality. To quote an excellent editorial in Monday's Times: "Stronger unions have not only helped ensure that essential public services are more efficient and effective; they have also led to higher wages and better benefits for workers. According to a report by the Economic Policy Institute, public employees in states with fair-share fees enjoy nearly the same compensation as their private-sector counterparts, while those in states that have banned such fees get 9 percent less."

Charter School Profiteers Outed

The pro-charter group Great Schools Massachusetts is going to have a lot harder time pretending it is a "grassroots" organization now that The Boston Globe has shined a light on the big corporate money behind it. Great Schools Massachusetts is backed by the New York-based Families for Excellent Schools.

And the web of conflicting interests grows more tangled. Massachusetts Secretary of Education James Peyser has long had ties with FES and other pro-charter groups. Despite claiming he resigned from the FES Board of Directors, he is still listed as a board member here. Is his real commitment to public schools or to privately run charters?

The Globe article begins, "A business-backed coalition is poised to spend up to $18 million and obliterate state campaign spending records in favor of expanded charter schools, launching its efforts with mail targeted at state Senate districts, including that of Senate President Stanley C. Rosenberg ." It goes on to say, "A person familiar with the plan said the mailings were funded by Families for Excellent Schools, a Manhattan-based nonprofit with deep ties to Wall Street that has waged a similar effort in New York."

How could it possibly be worth $18 million to lift the cap? Follow the money. If charter backers win and open all the schools allowed, billions of dollars will be diverted from district public schools to private charter school operators in a few short years.

So our job is clear. We need to expose the lies of our opponents and work in solidarity with one another to stand up for our rights, the interests of our students and fairness for working men and women everywhere.

In solidarity, and in anticipation of many great things ahead,