Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Anti-Union Activists Want To "Speak Out For Teachers"

 Among the folks pushing the narrative that schools are shut down because of the Evil Teachers Unions, we find this sparkly website--  Speak Out For Teachers. Here's their pitch:

Are you one of the millions of teachers eager to return to safe, in-person learning — only to find a teachers’ union is fighting to keep schools closed and students at home? Share your story below. It might even air on national television!

"It's time to speak out for teachers," they declare, as they invite you to hear some teacher stories they have already collected. There are three so far.

One is Catherine Barrett from Phoenix, who a few years back was part of #RedforEd until she became a GOP political operative for Doug Ducey, attacking the #REdforEd movement. She also turned up as chair of a group pushing a Classroom Code of Ethics in Arizona, proposed gag rule for teachers in the wake of #RedforEd; that proposal turned out not be an Arizona thing, but an anti-teacher move cooked up by activist David Horowitz and pushed out across the country. 

Another is Bruce Aster. Aster was a legislative assistant in DC before becoming a teacher, and he has never been a union fan. His profile is listed on For Kids and Country, the website of anti-union activist Rebecca Friedrichs. They have more in common than a hard-right anti-union stance; when Friedrichs' SCOTUS case stalled because of Justice Scalia's death, Aster agreed to be one of the faces of a new lawsuit against the California union over the issue of fair share fees. 

“I think tenure, as currently practiced, protects those few ‘deadwood teachers’ with no incentive to excel in their craft, and the lack of any merit element in pay is a disincentive to excellence,” Aster said in a statement provided by his attorney. “I strongly favor charter schools, vouchers, and more choice for parents about schools.”

Janus got there first, but Aster was part of that crowd.

Speak Out For Teachers is brought to us by the folks at Center for Union Facts, an organization that is heavily anti-union (not just teachers, but unions of all shapes and sizes). Their website doesn't tell you much about who they are. The answer to the FAQ question "So who are you guys, really?" is " The Center for Union Facts is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization supported by foundations, businesses, union members, and the general public. We are dedicated to showing Americans the truth about today's union leadership." So, they aren't saying who they are.

That's okay, because other people have been doing the research.

The CUF is part of the constellation of conservative dark money activist groups run by Richard Berman. Berman has been at this for years; he's been profiled by a variety of outlets, and you can spend a good afternoon studying up on line. He started out in the food and drink industry, opposing minimum wage laws and forming Beverage Retailers Against Drunk Driving, a group created to counter MADD. He's proud of a "win ugly" approach of personal attacks, and promises his donors anonymity by running their money through his many various groups. One of his groups ran a full-page ad in USA Today against teachers and in support of the Vergara lawsuit. Right after Janus, CUF set up a website, promoted by billboards, that referred folks to My Pay My Say, the Mackinac Center's initiative to try to get people to leave the union. You can catch more of his exploits at Sourcewatch, but the bottom line is that this is a guy who fights hard for the bosses and will try just about anything to trash unions. 

This frickin' guy.
So, Speak Out For Teachers is the same old song and dance-- some rich folks trying to convince teachers that the evil unions are misrepresenting teachers, and here are a couple of anti-union teachers to help make the point. 

It's unfortunate that they decided to attach this baloney to an actual serious problem. Whether or not to open schools is a hard scary call, and most of the choices available in most parts of the country are all bad. The science is not clear, the leadership is barely there, and people are looking for the solution that, for them, will suck least. None of this is easy.

These folks can claim all day that it's the evil unions trying to move to virtual school (for some reason, never clearly specified, because "teachers don't want to work" seems stupid and "teachers don't want to die" seems obvious), but in fact there are districts that opened school buildings, and the families stayed away. There is virtual schooling going on in places where the union barely exists, and there are charter schools with no organized labor force at all who have also closed their doors and fired up the internet (Success Academy will now be remote learning through March). But I guess when your main goal is to slam the unions, you just take whatever opening you can get. I have to conclude that Speak Out For Teachers doesn't, and not only can it be ignored, but it should be ignored.

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