The 2012 decline also hit government, where budgetary and labor reforms in places like Wisconsin and Tennessee have taken hold. The inimitable Mike Antonucci, writing at the Education Intelligence Agency, picked apart the numbers to unravel 10 interesting observations, including this pair of gems:
9) If the trends recorded since 2000 continue, by 2051 there will be 8 million union members in the United States – 6.6% of the total workforce – and they will all work for the government.
The 19th century American individualist Ralph Waldo Emerson once famously declared, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” This coming legislative session might just give teachers union leaders a chance to confront their own hobgoblin — choosing whether to embrace it or banish it far away.
Rumors persist that the American Federation of Teachers wants to inflict legislative revenge on the bold Douglas County school board. In exchange for having their monopoly bargaining status and political dues collection revoked, they apparently are tempted to advance a bill that would impose some sort of bargaining requirement on local school boards. To succumb to the temptation would place their Colorado Education Association (CEA) union counterparts in a bind: How would they look having so stridently defended the principle of local control in the recent past?
The frequent and widespread invocation of “local control” under the Golden Dome has grown into a running gag among education lobbyists and committees. Article IX, Section 15 of the Colorado Constitution grants local school boards “control of instruction of the public schools of their respective districts.” But the clause often grows larger than life, with advocates either clinging to or resisting the argument based on the bill before them. (more…)
Some of Wisconsin’s early 2011 scenes played out yesterday at the State Capitol, as protestors thronged and chanted favorites like, “A people united will never be defeated!” and “Hey hey, ho ho, Right-to-Work has got to go!”
News outlets report that Michigan State Police arrested eight people trying to break into legislative chambers as the state senate gave preliminary approval to send the workplace freedom measure on to supportive Governor Rick Snyder. (When similar legislation is introduced here in Colorado in 2013, the reaction almost certainly will be much more quiet… and lethal.)
When it comes to freedom of association, Colorado workers soon may have good reason to envy their Michigan counterparts. The Washington Times recently reported some developing momentum for a Right-to-Work law in the Great Lakes State:
The possible push in the state Legislature’s lame-duck session has already sparked a battle, as a coalition of about 300 AFL-CIO members as well as a contingent from the state police descended on the Statehouse in Lansing on Thursday to lobby lawmakers against a measure they fear could dramatically limit their influence.
Big Labor is trying to nip the effort to empower non-union workers in the bud, organizing vocal pressure before a bill even has been introduced. Before the recent elections, there was no imminent sign of workplace freedom moving forward.
For the past couple years, Wisconsin has been the locus of the political battle to weaken public-sector union power. After Gov. Scott Walker not only survived but thrived amid a failed recall election, conservatives breathed a sigh of relief. Most prominently, the costly but decisive victory revived hopes that fiscal sanity and a sense of fairness could be restored.
Modest cuts to lavish benefits for government employees, along with some of the accompanying tools approved in Walker’s controversial Budget Repair Bill, put the Badger State back on a healthy fiscal setting and brought compensation more back in line with private sector workers.
But a new video from the Association of American Educators reminds us that the Wisconsin reforms also promoted professionalism and individual empowerment for teachers. Walker’s state left the ranks of those where union monopoly power feeds off teacher tribute payments. (more…)
It’s funny how so many of those Colorado teachers union deadlines fall at inconvenient times. Want to sign up for one of the Colorado education Association’s local affiliates? You can do it any time. Want to opt out of union membership, perhaps to choose a different membership option? Well, finding the exact dates you can opt out depends on which school district you work in.
For so many, though, it comes at the beginning of the school year as classrooms are being decorated, lesson plans developed, routines established, and so much more. But September 15 passes before you can get down to the local union office — say, in Jeffco, Commerce City, Englewood, Longmont, or Canon City — and you have to wait another 350 days to stop the automatic union dues deduction. That’s about what happened to Denver Public Schools teacher Ronda Reinhardt, who finally was able to take advantage of the two-week November opt-out window after waiting nearly a full year.
But what about the teacher who wants to stick with the $750 or more in NEA/CEA dues per year but maybe doesn’t like the union’s sometimes unseemlypolitical spending habits? Getting the $39, or even $63 (in some locations), back from the Every Member Option means submitting the request just before the Christmas er, winter break at the December 15 deadline. (more…)
I’m back. This time I mean it. With Colorado’s legislative session in gear and both chambers of the General Assembly up for grabs in this fall’s election, there is no time to dive into the fray like the present. While Mount Virtus may never be as prolific a place as it’s ever been. You can follow some of my other writings as follows:
Nevertheless, this year you can count on this space for more coverage of events at the legislature and analysis of the upcoming state legislative elections — much like these 2010 posts on the state house and senate.
That sort of in-depth analysis will wait ’till later. For now, to whet the appetite, a quick look at House District 27 — 2010′s correctly called #1 pickup for Republicans. Democrats want it back, naturally. But given the recent reapportionment that added to the district’s GOP registration advantage, it’s an uphill climb. A month ago the liberal blog Jeffco Pols reported that Big Labor’s Tim Allport was stepping up to challenge Republican freshman Rep. Libby Szabo: (more…)
Last week I filmed a 14-minute segment with my boss at the Independence Institute, Jon Caldara, on his show Devil’s Advocate. The topic for discussion was the timely news that members of the Colorado Education Association (CEA) have until tomorrow (December 15)to get back money automatically collected with their dues to support (almost completely one-sided) state and local political campaigns.
As I often say, if you like how the union spends your money on politics, you have no reason to complain and absolutely nothing to do. But for those teachers who would rather support their own political causes, or use the money to pay for Christmas shopping or just save for a rainy day, then members need to be informed of their opportunity. One way to find out how to get the Colorado teachers union political refund is to watch the video:
In the episode Jon describes the notifications about teacher options as my personal charity work — the kind of charity work where one gets called nasty names. So be it. In the last-minute rush before the holidays, and tomorrow’s all-important December 15 deadline, here’s hoping this post makes the difference for someone out there.
A number of other states have laws mandating that negotiations between government-employee unions and government agencies be open to the public. In Colorado, that decision is currently left to local government. Colorado law is generally friendly to public openness and disclosure regarding government meetings and documents. Since a majority of funding for public-school districts in Colorado comes not from local property taxes but from the state’s coffers, the state legislature clearly has standing to join other states in passing a uniform law opening these kinds of negotiations to the light of public scrutiny.
As I reported in my 2010 Independence Institute issue backgrounder “Colorado Education and Open Negotiations,” six states currently have laws on the books guaranteeing this brand of taxpayer-friendly government transparency. In Colorado you have to go back to 2005 for Senate Bill 175 and to 2004 for House Bill 1242, the legislature’s last serious (and in the case of 1242, nearly successful) attempts to shine light on negotiations between governments and unions. With momentum growing locally around this issue, might Colorado lawmakers try this approach again? (more…)
Slipping under the radar late in Colorado’s legislative session (sine die is tomorrow, hallelujah!) is House Bill 1320 — sponsored by two conservative Republicans, Rep. Janak Joshi and Sen. Bill Cadman — a rare two-page piece of legislation that would essentially outlaw collective bargaining in state and local governments. It’s not going to pass, and concerned citizens and political observers rightfully are paying attention to Colorado’s redistricting debate instead, so it’s not worth expending too many pixels.
Local FOX 31 Denver News and reporter Eli Stokols are to be commended for wanting to look at the effects of K-12 education spending cuts and innovative ideas for addressing the challenge. But the first edition of the televised series cries out for context and correction. First of all, it’s important to stress that yes, for the past couple years Colorado schools have been experiencing real budget cuts — after years of steady increases in per-pupil funding. And of course, the cuts will have an impact, albeit an impact that can be heavily mitigated and overcome in the long run by re-thinking how our school system does business.
That being said, the “crisis” trumpeted in Stokols’ piece is painted in a dubiously overstated light. It all begins with the following graphic that purports to show Colorado K-12 spending in a long-term decline:
In a time when a large fiscally conservative grassroots movement like the Tea Parties have developed a strong voice, we shouldn’t be surprised to see calls for greater transparency in government operations. Not only when it comes to the fiscal ledger (“if you can’t defend it, don’t spend it”), but also when it comes to those union negotiations that drive so much of government spending. Should any government contract negotiations be done behind closed doors? Why should unions be treated any differently?
In Colorado Springs a citizen lawsuit has pressured one of the state’s largest school districts to concede to opening up one teachers union bargaining session to public observation. (Decisions on future sessions pending… most likely on the effectiveness of outside public pressure.) To its credit, the Gazette has brought attention to the story to contribute to the public conversation. Even better, inquiring minds want to know: Did one of its reporters attend Friday’s session? Was there anything to report?
Meanwhile, another local grassroots effort to bring about open government union negotiations has occurred more or less under the radar. On March 3 Citizens for Responsible Aurora Government (CRAG) formally requested that the municipal government for Colorado’s third largest city provide taxpaying citizens access to observe bargaining sessions with local police and fire unions. Transparency seems like the backbone for good public policy, right? Well, in a March 23 YourHub article, CRAG spokesman Jim Frye acknowledged that the Aurora city attorney’s denial “was disappointing though not entirely surprising.”(more…)
This little tidbit I uncovered either shatters the grand Colorado Democracy Alliance (CoDA) conspiracy theory or proves it to be even more convoluted and diabolical than previously imagined. But court documents show two of the Alliance’s core groups — sue-happy Colorado Ethics Watch (CEW) and the Colorado Education Association (CEA), the state’s largest teachers union — on opposite ends of a state supreme court case regarding elections law.
Back in 2008 CEW filed suit against a couple of Republican 527 groups (Senate Majority Fund LLC and Colorado Leadership Fund LLC) claiming that they had overstepped the bounds of campaign finance law by participating in “express advocacy” of state legislative candidates. The administrative law judge ruled against the plaintiffs, and CEW lost on appeal as well. Now the case is headed to the state’s highest court.
CEW’s argument is so absurd based on legal precedent that, well, even CEA has filed an amicus brief defending the Republican groups (so has the Colorado Bar Association, but it’s not as intriguing as the teachers union chiming in). CEA attorney Mark Grueskin summarizes the argument before the Colorado Supreme Court as follows: (more…)
Efforts to organize constituent groups to contact and lobby their elected officials have grown more sophisticated in recent years. Many of us like the ease of the online petition that automatically directs messages to our representatives based on our input location data — though I frequently prefer to tailor the pre-fab messages with my own words.
I can’t be the only one who has subjected myself to an onslaught of email messages urging me to call my Congressman or state senator over the latest hideously outrageous or earth-saving piece of legislation. A result of the sheer volume of these messages, combined with limited resources and competing priorities, my eyes long since have glazed over most of them. Have I become too cynical? Perhaps.
Why was [Maryland Sen. David Brinkley] getting so many calls? The Maryland State Education Association hired a company to call teachers from throughout the state, and then connect them with their senators.
Unfortunately, there was just one small problem with the approach:
Brinkley, who said he planned to vote against all three tax proposals, said teachers seemed caught off guard and ill-prepared to speak to their senators.
Can you imagine any other advocacy group trying so desperately to hold its constituents’ hands like helping a toddler cross the street (do I know a thing or to about that)? Especially a group on the Right? Well, if someone were to follow the MSEA’s strategy, they at least might want to find a better way to prepare members or supporters for that all-important call with their elected representative.
This milestone is the culmination of a decades-long trend in which private sector unions have diminished while Big Labor has targeted government agencies as fruitful sources of revenue. As of 2010, we have the first strong indications that the same observation can be made of Colorado — namely, that more of the state’s union members work for government than for a private employer.
In light of the legislative action taking place in Ohio and Wisconsin, I have written on some of the critical differences related to union collective bargaining between the private sector and the public sector. An even better explanation of the inherent defects in government collective bargaining appears in a recent op-ed by David Denholm published in the Washington Examiner. (more…)