The Quintessons Ruling!

Nobody in this picture looks very happy.

At about eight o’clock this morning, my phone buzzed.

It was a friend texting me that the Janus v AFSCME case had been decided, and that the Plaintiff, Mark Janus, had won. I rolled over, and went to sleep for a couple more hours, as my phone blew up with messages.

I don’t feel that great about it, even though I have been on on the Janus side of the case, and generally at odds with my own Union. I’m also not rushing out to stop paying dues here. I think that the Unions (even mine) need a little while to adjust to this new paradigm, and decide what their policies are going to be moving forward. It’s not like suddenly all sorts of members are suddenly not members, or dues collection has ground to a halt, either.

My biggest beef right now is a related matter in California. The Union is my sole representative (by law) in matters related to my work. On that level…they do deserve some kind of revenue, even if I dissent with them. If I could negotiate my own contract, or have access to my own representatives in matters of the contract, then sure…I’d feel like I needed to NOT pay anything. The fact is though, California law empowers them as my only contact negotiators, so I feel like they do need some kind of payment, in the same way that I would pay an agent.

That was the point of Agency Fees in the first place, but that got out of hand, I think.

I want the opportunity to talk to some of the Union Leaders, who in the past have been Epic Level @#$%s, because there was ZERO accountability to members. I want them to explain to me (in non slogan, discussion format) why they are in fact, agents that I want to hire to represent me. I don’t actually have to agree with them about everything. In the past though, it has been a matter of being talked down by Union Leaders, in terms of “that’s not how it is, there’s nothing you can do about it,” and they STILL get paid by me. I’ve never been okay with that. Those have almost always been over Students’ Rights issues, or investment of money into political candidates.

Recently, the President of the Union called me at home to convince me to fill out the “All In” paperwork. During that time frame, he argued with me, was misinformed about cases that I was involved in (and told me that I was wrong), berated me, and talked down any point I might have. This was the organized attempt to ensure my ongoing dues payments, and was based entirely in bullying, basically. It was unkind and inappropriate, but I believe based entirely in fear of the fallout of this verdict.

I intend to give that guy a second chance to talk to me, and not be a @#$%.

It is a myth that at least in California, hundreds of thousands of teachers will immediately dump the Union. It’s a myth because it is pretty hard to actually even become and Agency Fee Payer (non member paying representation fees). I’ve been asking for that paperwork for twenty years, and simply haven’t been given it. In fact, I recently asked to be taken off of the “call list” (after that negative experience with the President), to which my representative said, “Sure…I’ll get on that.”

Never did…but he gave me the “All In” dues for life forms two more times. That’s just been the status quo for some time, because there haven’t been any options.

That sort of failure to share information is typical, and to be completely fair, based in a rational self interest. Most teachers depend upon their Union Reps, or the Union Newspaper to get information about these topics, which are obviously slanted publications. I’m not going to talk about how to opt out of my own organization in my own newspaper, or about cases that might make me look a bit shady. Unfortunately, most teachers don’t actually seek out information from other sources.

According to a survey conducted by Educators for Excellence, as of April, “78 percent of teachers had heard not much or nothing” about Janus and “47 percent of union members said they had heard nothing about the case.”

As a result, it is reasonable to assume other public employees may not hear about their newfound freedom to opt out of paying fees to a unions without penalty. People should know their rights…that’s all. It is entirely possible that I will continue paying at least Agency Fees, after I see what the organization shifts into. That will take some research, and some discussions with people that I don’t necessarily like all that much, or currently agree with.

Today…the decision has been polarizing. Huge numbers of people have no idea what it means, or what’s going on. The media is painting this decision as the “death of Unions,” and no mistake, it is a hard blow to the financing structures of Public Sector Unions nationwide. I look at news and social media, and the decision is seen as an awful right wing death knell for the Democratic Party, or conversely as a great victory for individual Free Speech.

All of the messages to my phone have not been…well, positive. Even from friends, because it is such a HUGE thing.

The art has been sitting on my desktop for days…since the weekend. The speech balloons were unfilled in, and I did those this morning. That way, I could have the dialogue fit the only three possible responses, and do so when the result was in. Kind of like the voting in 1989 for DC Comics, in the “Death in the Family” story that killed off the Jason Todd Robin. It is the only time I’ve done that kind of thing, and a pretty big milestone.

I need to be very frank about this: my emotions on this are very mixed, despite having been heavily invested in the Friedrichs Case, and this one. After a year and a half of the current presidency, and massive shifts backward in basic Civil Rights, I feel like the massive Union support for the Democratic Party (in general) is possibly more needed than it has been for some time. I’m not sure that more division, over anything, is that great an idea right now. I think that a large number of workers (teachers in my case) NEED someone else to represent them, because they wither won’t or can’t do it themselves.

At the same time, I have been a mandatory paying member of a Union that has actively conspired against me when I was trying to improve a school for the benefit of students, failed to step up to the plate and grieve a corrupt principal, hidden information from me directly, opposed me directly in court on TWO students’ rights cases, and generally berated me in public for most of these things. I’ve seen the Union do a solid job defending people that don’t really fulfill the obligations of being a teacher, and that bothers me. See…that’s the part of me that wants to just leave in a huff.

The thing is…all of that nonsense took place before this mandatory metamorphosis. Predictions are just that, predictions. None of them are guarantees. While yelling at me, the UTLA President predicted in unkind terms that I would immediately dump my Union membership, and the point of this post is the opposite. I’m thinking about it, sure, but haven’t even printed out the paperwork or secured representation yet.

I’m a big fan of numbers over opinions. Let’s look at a few.

About 70 percent of the nation’s 3.8 million public school teachers belong to a union or professional association, according to a 2015-16 survey by the National Center for Education Statistics, down from 79 percent in the 1999-2000 school year. Lily Eskelsen García, president of the National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers’ union, said that the Janus decision could mean a loss of up to 200,000 members: $28 million less in the organization’s $366 million budget.

I don’t want to nitpick, but that’s still an operational budget of $338 million dollars. Also, and I’m putting this firmly in the “pro” column, the National Education Association does not plan to curb its political activities, which are largely on behalf of Democrats and liberal groups. Among the union’s priorities is mobilizing teachers to vote in this year’s midterm elections, Ms. Eskelsen García said. I have to say that I support that, because voting is vital to the process.

It is interesting to note that most of my beefs, in fact, have to do with the local Union, UTLA. The NEA, the CTA, and I tend to be in a general agreement…it would really be convenient if I could be a member at the national level, and not the local level. I don’t think that option exists, though.

The walkout by teachers this year were almost entirely in non-Union, Right to Work states. In many of the walkout states, the teachers who led the protests first gathered supporters on Facebook, sometimes with little help from Union officials. But the state and national Unions stepped in with organizing and lobbying muscle — and money — that sustained the movement as it grew. That support could wane if teachers in strong-union states like California or Illinois choose not to pay dues and fees. That’s a big deal.

Despite having worked together during the protests, some walkout leaders have little loyalty to Unions. In Oklahoma, Alberto Morejon, a 25-year-old middle-school history teacher, started a Facebook group that pushed for the walkout. Many in the group were frustrated, he said, by Union leaders whom they believed were not responsive to their concerns, and whom they felt were too quick to call off a nine-day labor action in Oklahoma in April. I’ve felt disenfranchised in much the same way, where it seemed like the UTLA was simply not in touch with the concerns that I had, or my school site.

“Teachers starting off, the salary is so low,” Mr. Morejon said. Foregoing Union fees means “one less thing you have to pay for. A lot of younger teachers I know, they’re not joining because they need to save every dollar they can.”

In response, the Union is preparing a campaign to mitigate the fallout, in particular reaching out to younger teachers who do not have deep loyalties to organized labor. I think that’s smart, because the most disgruntled and under represented group of current Union members. If the Teachers’ Unions want to stay financially strong, they are a key outreach demographic.

That’s what I’ve got for the day of the ruling. Right now, as I look at the headlines, rhetoric is strongly worded by Union Reps, and by Free Speech Advocates. All of it is in the heat of the moment, often authored by people that just became aware of the case or the conflict. I’ve been invested in this for a long time, and honestly feel like all the sharp tongued rhetoric is a pile of @#$%. I’m going to make my decisions with purpose, and with a clear head, and so should everybody else.

Regardless…this does mark a guaranteed change to the “business as usual” in Public Education.

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