“Temporary” Taxes Forever

tax signNothing is so permanent as a temporary tax. In California, the state’s most powerful public-employee lobbies are preparing two initiatives for the November 2016 ballot that would either extend or simply make permanent an income-tax increase on the state’s highest earners that was scheduled to expire at the end of 2018. Legislators and their union patrons can hardly contain themselves.

Anyone with eyes to see could have predicted this turn of events. In 2012, the Golden State faced a $16 billion budget deficit caused almost entirely by unchecked entitlements, poor revenue estimates, and years of bad legislative choices. Governor Jerry Brown went to voters and said, in effect, he wouldn’t raise their taxes; he wanted them to raise taxes on themselves. But he promised that the pain would only be temporary. And if voters didn’t go along, well, the governor couldn’t guarantee what might happen next to public schools, health care for the poor, and other beloved programs. No pressure or anything — just vote for Proposition 30 and nobody else would get hurt. Brown tramped up and down the state in the weeks before the election, quoting scripture as he often does to make his case. When the ballots were all counted, 55.4 percent of voters went along.

Prop. 30 amended the state’s constitution to raise the sales tax from 7.25 percent to 7.5 percent for four years and retroactively hiked for seven years the income tax on Californians earning more than $250,000. The top tax bracket went from 10.3 percent to 13.3 percent, giving the Golden State the distinction of boasting the highest marginal income-tax rates in America. The “temporary” measure was supposed to raise anywhere from $6.4 billion to $9 billion a year, with the bulk of the money intended for public schools (or, at least, the public school teachers’ beleaguered retirement fund). Brown admonished legislators in his January 2013 “state of the state” address not to let the additional revenues cloud their judgment. “The people have given us seven years of extra taxes,” he said. “Let us follow the wisdom of Joseph, pay down our debts, and store up reserves against the leaner times that will surely come.”

That notion lasted about a year before state officials — the ones not named Brown — began speaking openly of extending the Prop. 30 hikes forever. Then, earlier this year, California’s Service Employees International Union and the California Teachers Association met to discuss a ballot initiative, dubbed the “School Funding and Budget Stability Act,” to extend Prop. 30’s income tax portion at least through 2030, when everyone will have forgotten why the additional taxes seemed necessary in the first place. The SEIU-CTA measure would purportedly raise between $5 billion and $11 billion annually, depending on the performance of the stock market. The state’s nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office has long pointed out that the state relies too heavily on capital gains taxes, making revenues volatile and difficult to predict. “Near the midpoint of this range — around $7.5 billion — is one reasonable expectation of the additional revenue that this measure would generate in 2019,” the LAO’s analysis of the SEIU-CTA initiative concludes. “Thereafter, through 2030, that amount will rise or fall each year depending on trends in the stock market and the economy.”

A second proposal by the SEIU-United Health Care Workers West, the California Hospital Association, and Common Sense Kids Action — cloyingly titled the “Invest in California’s Children Act” — would drop any pretense of sunset dates and permanently enshrine the 13.3 percent bracket in the tax code. It also would impose even higher rates on “super-earner” couples who make more than $2 million a year.

The measure could raise upward of $10.6 billion yearly — again, depending on the market — with 45 percent earmarked for K-12 education, 5 percent for community colleges, 10 percent for child development programs, and 40 percent for Medi-Cal, the state’s version of Medicaid. Common Sense Kids Action is the brainchild of Jim Steyer, brother of billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer. Jim Steyer contends that early childhood programs such as First 5 California, funded by cigarette taxes and Head Start, are at once indispensable and insufficient. He argues that his measure simply asks the richest Californians to “pay a little more so we can make the investments every California kid needs to have a great start in life.”

Last month, the different groups began a series of meetings to see whether they could avoid an expensive and divisive campaign next year. The teachers unions are keen to expand the 1988 state constitutional mandate requiring at least 40 percent of the general-fund budget be allocated to K-12 education. They’d like to push it to 50 percent. But the health-care lobby, particularly the California Medical Association, has been pushing for the state to increase Medi-Cal reimbursements to doctors. If the CMA and the hospitals can’t get a larger cut from permanently higher income taxes, they might push for yet another $2-a-pack cigarette tax.

Where is Brown in all this? “I said when I campaigned for Prop. 30 that it was a temporary tax,” Brown said in October 2014. “That’s my belief, and I’m doing what we can to live within our means.” He added, “Don’t worry about having too many Democrats in Sacramento. If they get out of hand, I’ll keep them in check.” Brown reiterated his point in January in response to another reporter’s question. “I said that’s a temporary tax,” he said curtly. And when Brown released his revised 2015-16 budget in May, the 104-page summary noted that general-fund revenues are expected to keep growing even without Prop. 30’s additional taxes.

But now the governor is being coy and his spokesmen nonresponsive. The interests that secured Brown’s historic third and fourth terms are taking no chances. Unlike death and taxes, Jerry Brown will be gone in January 2019. The CTA, SEIU, and the alphabet soup of Sacramento lobbyists will be around forever.

2016 Ballot Measures: This Means War

Did anyone notice the guerrilla war that broke out last week?

No, it wasn’t a coup d’etat in some tropical backwater. In fact, the first shots were fired on the website of the state’s chief law enforcement officer.

The Ballot Wars have begun again, more or less on schedule.

To no-one’s surprise, the California Teacher’s Association last month proposed a ballot initiative to re-enact the Proposition 30 income tax hikes for another 12 years (albeit with a twist to exempt the new revenues from the Proposition 2 rainy day reserve). The CTA measure continues to deposit the new taxes into the state’s General Fund, and most of the money will be spent on public schools.

Voters approved the original version of this proposal as Proposition 30 in 2012, by a margin of 55% to 45%.

Somewhat to the surprise of the political cognoscenti, a coalition of California hospitals and the hospital workers union soon thereafter proposed an initiative that would go one better: increase income taxes even higher for even longer, and distribute the money to schools and to health care programs.

Uh-oh. Two measures on the same ballot competing for the same pot of dough? Mobilizing opposition and confusing voters? Facing a threat to their hegemony, the teachers union declared, “This means war!”

Actually, that’s my rough translation of their actions last week. Lawyers for CTA submitted three ballot measure proposals that directly attack California hospitals, hitting executive pay, tax exempt status, and government reimbursements.

If this was a naval engagement, these ballot proposals were three shots across the bow of the Good Ship CaliforniaHospital.

The next move in this engagement is on the health care side. But wait … there’s more.

Earlier this year a group of southern California nonprofit charities launched a bid to raise statewide property taxes by billions to pay for a variety of health care, early education and economic development programs. Though not itself a split roll property tax, the increases would certainly occupy the political space for any current or future property tax hikes. The split roll is another favorite pony in the CTA’s stable.

If I was a sponsor of the “Lifting Children and Families Out of Poverty Act,” I’d be on the lookout for a fusillade from the teachers’ advance guard.

resident of the California Foundation for Commerce and Education

Originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Ballot Initiative Amended to Target State Rainy Day Fund

Sponsors of an extension of the Proposition 30 top income tax rates amended their ballot initiative this week, slightly parting the curtain on the skirmishes yet to come.

Recently I wrote of a clever provision buried in the original proposal. Sponsors aim to continue the tax hikes on the upper incomes for another dozen years. But they also slipped in a clause prohibiting the deposit of any revenues from these taxes into the new rainy day reserve. In other words, the Legislature can spend all the money from billions in new taxes as if those revenues are locked in stone and never subject to the business cycle.

The upshot would be to undermine the newly-adopted budget cushion, notably touted by Gov. Brown in 2014, and risk deep spending cuts or even higher taxes when the state suffers its next, inevitable downturn.

The newly-amended version of the measure tweaks this provision – clarifying that it would not take effect until 2019, the year the Proposition 30 taxes would have otherwise expired. Without that change, the measure would likely have been interpreted to prohibit deposit of surplus revenues from the current Prop. 30 taxes into the rainy day reserve.

Why make this change? The answer may be just two words: Gov. Brown. Undermining the rainy day reserve as early as 2016 might have brought down his wrath on the ballot proposal (the governor has not yet stated a position on the measure). Poking the governor in the nose is usually bad politics. Proponents – mainly the California Teachers Association – might also calculate the governor may be less motivated to defend his rainy day reserve if the blade is shivved after he leaves office in 2019.

Originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

resident of the California Foundation for Commerce and Education

Supreme Court Case That Could Topple Teachers Unions

Rebecca FriedrichsFaced with the greatest legal challenge to their core source of revenue, California unions have braced for defeat and scrambled for alternatives.

Some time after its new term begins this month, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, which challenges the union’s collection of mandatory fees from members. The case’s stakes have been raised as high as possible by plaintiffs’ supporters. “We are seeking the end of compulsory union dues across the nation,” said Terry Pell, president of the Center for Individual Rights, according to the Sacramento Bee.

“Since 1997, the Supreme Court has held that requiring non-union members to pay the cost of collective bargaining prevents ‘free riders,’ meaning workers who get the benefits of a union contract without paying for it,” as NBC News noted. “But in subsequent rulings, several of the court’s conservatives have suggested that the decision should be overruled.” Legal analysts suggested the track record implies a victory for California’s plaintiffs. Erin Murphy, a federal appeals lawyer, told NBC News she “would not feel very good about my prospects if I were the unions.”

Crisis mode

At the end of the Legislature’s final session, pro-union Democrats attempted an unusual “gut and amend” maneuver, wherein a bill’s contents are wiped out and completely replaced without revisiting the standard hearing process. The new language would have required one-on-one, union-sponsored “public employee orientation” for existing and new employees. The content of the orientation “would be the sole domain of the union and not open to negotiation,” with employees “required to attend in person during work hours. Taxpayers would pick up the tab,” the Heartland Institute added in a critical summary.

Although the effort failed, it was a notable reflection of state unions’ concern that they can’t rely on the Supreme Court to protect their current practices. “Public employee unions haven’t had mandated orientations because they don’t need them,” U-T San Diego’s Steven Greenhut observed, calling the last-minute gut and amend a “pre-emptive strike” on the court’s hearing of Friedrichs. “Newly hired workers must already pay dues to the recognized union.”

Not all union supporters have framed the impending decision as a crisis, however. “Even some pro-union voices have argued the Friedrichs case doesn’t portend the end of the world for public-sector unions, in that it might force them to become more responsive and democratic,” Greenhut suggested.

But the court’s decision is likely to hinge on more fundamental questions pertaining to the very definition of a union.

What’s a union?

One element of the problem has been that unions fear members just won’t pay dues if they can get away with it — the so-called “free rider” problem, familiar from the idea that many fewer Americans would pay taxes were they merely voluntary. “No one knows how many would, with annual dues in the CTA, for example, often topping $1,000,” according to the Los Angeles Daily News. “That makes this a life-and-death case for the unions,” which fear the political power of their main adversaries — certain large corporations and high-net-worth individuals — would go undiminished. It would be very difficult, in other words, for the court to successfully separate the question of unions’ political power from the question of their existence.

That has led analysts to focus on a second aspect of the problem of what a union really is. One Justice, Antonin Scalia, has indicated in the past that the existence of unions within the American system of law depends on their ability to generalize the burdens of keeping them running. “In a 1991 case, he wrote that because public sector unions have a legal duty to represent all employees, it’s reasonable to expect all workers to share the costs,” the Daily News noted.

For that reason, the question of what counts as political expenditures would likely come to the fore before the court. But the plaintiffs in Friedrichs have anticipated the controversy, because they see it as the foundation of their entire case. “All union fees, they argue, are in some way used for political activities and since they don’t always agree with the union’s stance, having to pay any fees is an infringement on their first amendment rights,” the Guardian reported.

Originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Teachers Unions Have a Penchant for Home Invasions

According to the latest data from the National Center for Education Statistics, the number of K-12 children educated at home increased from 1.09 million in 2003 to 1.77 million in 2012, which is 3.4 percent of the school population. (The National Home Education Research Institute has the total number of homeschooled at 2.2 million.)

The myth that homeschooling is the domain of the very rich, the very religious and the very weird is less true today than ever. Mike Donnelly, attorney and director of international affairs at the Home School Legal Defense Association, says the “National Household Education Survey” of parents in 2012 shows considerably more diversity in its attraction.

Ninety-one percent of parents cited concerns about the environment of public schools, 77% cited moral instruction, and 74% expressed concerns about the academic instruction. … 64% listed wanting to give their children religious instruction as a reason, followed by 44% saying they wanted their child to have a nontraditional form of education.”

When it came to parents listing the single most important reason for home schooling, the survey showed 25% of parents said they were concerned about the environment of other schools; 22% said “other reasons” (including family time, finances, travel and distance), and 19% said they were dissatisfied with the academic instruction at other schools.

City Journal associate editor and homeschooling parent Matthew Hennessey writes that city-dwellers are teaching their kids at home in greater numbers because they are frustrated with public schools. Citing NCES numbers, he reports that 28 percent of homeschoolers live in cities. “That’s almost as many as live in suburbs (34 percent) or rural areas (31 percent). Boston, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles are home to swelling communities of homeschoolers. And in the nation’s largest city — New York — the number of homeschooled students has risen 47 percent, to more than 3,700 children, over the last five years.

With some creative ideas, modern technology and a solid support system, parents are finding it easier than ever to shun traditional schools – both public and private. Homeschool co-ops, where a group of parents get together and combine their talents to take the burden off individual moms and dads, have proliferated. For subjects that a parent is not proficient in, the internet offers a world of assistance. The online Khan Academy alone has produced over 6,500 video lessons that teach a wide spectrum of subjects, mainly focusing on mathematics and science. As of April 1, 2015, the Khan Academy channel on YouTube had attracted 2,825,468 subscribers and his videos have been viewed more than 527 million times. And the aforementioned Home School Legal Defense Association maintains a comprehensive website where parents can go to learn about the homeschool law in their state, find supplemental resources, exchange curricula, etc.

And now, news from the Grinch….

At its yearly national convention, the National Education Association passed Resolution B-83 (exactly the same as 2011’s B-82, 2008’s B-75, etc.) which in part reads:

The National Education Association believes that home schooling programs based on parental choice cannot provide the student with a comprehensive education experience. When home schooling occurs, students enrolled must meet all state curricular requirements, including the taking and passing of assessments to ensure adequate academic progress. Home schooling should be limited to the children of the immediate family, with all expenses being borne by the parents/guardians. Instruction should be by persons who are licensed by the appropriate state education licensure agency, and a curriculum approved by the state department of education should be used. (Emphasis added.)

I can hear the conversation:

Teachers union activist: How dare you invade our turf! Just who do you parents think you are? I don’t care if they are your kids. You can’t teach them because you don’t have a state credential and worse, you aren’t in a union!

Parents: But homeschooled kids do better on achievement tests, have higher graduation rates than public school students and are actively recruited by top colleges. And yes, ahem, they are my kids.

Teachers union activist: No matter. Your kids shouldn’t be allowed to learn from you. (In fact, unless you have a chef’s license, you shouldn’t be involved in their food prep either, but we’ll get to that another day.) And if you insist on teaching your own kids, you should get a state credential and then expect a rather aggressive knock on the door from someone on our organizing committee who will convince you to join our union.

An exaggeration you say? Well no, not really. In 2008, a California state appellate court ruled that parents who lack teaching credentials could not educate their children at home. Needless to say, this decision sent waves of angst through California’s homeschooling families, but it delighted the teachers unions whose leaders weighed in on the ruling. The California Teachers Association, which filed a brief claiming that allowing parents to homeschool their children without having a teaching credential will result in “educational anarchy,” was satisfied. Lloyd Porter, CTA board member at the time, averred, “We’re happy. We always think students should be taught by credentialed teachers, no matter what the setting.” United Teachers of Los Angeles president A.J. Duffy declared from his pulpit, “What’s best for a child is to be taught by a credentialed teacher.”

Independent of the California ruling, teacher union leaders across the country have left no doubt how they feel about the role of parent as teacher. Annette Cootes, a Texas teacher union organizer, declared that “homeschooling is a form of child abuse.” Perhaps the most telling and honest quote is from former Louisiana teacher union president Joyce Haynes who in 2013 said it all. Speaking about Louisiana’s voucher program – though it could apply to homeschoolers – she said it would result in “… taking our children from us.”

A union president is complaining about their children being taken from them?! Yes, she thinks that parents are nothing more than breeders and that your kids really belong to her and her union. If that kind of kidnapper mentality doesn’t scare you, nothing will.

Fortunately for families, six months later in August 2008, California’s Second District Court of Appeal reversed its original decision and ruled that non-credentialed parents have a right to educate their own kids.

But while homeschooling thrives, Big Union continues its mission to outlaw and marginalize parents who simply want to do what they have traditionally done throughout history – take responsibility for educating their own children.

Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.

Pair of Federal Lawsuits Could Undo CTA’s Dominance.

brochure04_MyCTAThe U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association in the fall. The 2013 lawsuit on behalf of Orange County teacher Rebecca Friedrichs, nine other teachers, and a professional association of Christian educators, takes aim at the constitutionality of California’s “agency shop” law, which forces public-school educators to pay dues to a teachers’ union, whether they want to or not. Friedrichs is now front-and-center in a concerted legal effort to constrain the outsize political influence of teachers’ unions in California and around the United States. “This case is about the right of individuals to decide for themselves whether to join and pay dues to an organization that purports to speak on their behalf,” said Terry Pell, president of the Washington D.C.-based Center for Individual Rights, the public-interest law firm that is representing Friedrichs. “We are seeking the end of compulsory union dues across the nation on the basis of the free-speech rights guaranteed by the First Amendment.”

Earlier this year, the teachers’ unions were hit with yet another lawsuit challenging the current compulsory dues-paying mandate. StudentsFirst, the Sacramento-based activist group founded by former D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee, filed Bain v. California Teachers Association, et al. in federal district court in April on behalf of four CTA members. The case challenges a union rule regarding members who refuse to pay the political portion of their dues. While teachers don’t have to join a union as a condition of employment in California, they must pay dues to the union anyway. Most join and pay the full share, which typically runs over $1,000 a year. But according to the CTA, about 29,000 — or 10 percent — of its active teachers opt out of paying the political or “non-chargeable” part, which brings their yearly expenditure down to around $600. However, to become “agency fee payers,” those teachers must resign from the union and relinquish many perks they had as full dues-paying members.

Unlike the plaintiffs in Friedrichs, the Bain teachers want to remain in the union. But they don’t think they should be effectively forced out of it and lose certain benefits because they’re unwilling to fund the leadership’s political agenda. Some teachers object that union political spending goes in one direction only: leftward. CTA spends millions each year on controversial, non-education-related liberal causes, such as establishing a single-payer health care system, expanding the government’s power of eminent domain, instituting same-sex marriage, and blocking photo ID requirements for voters — while giving virtually nothing to conservative candidates or causes.

The teachers argue that this violates their constitutional right to free speech. Affected teachers lose insurance benefits along with the right to vote for their union representative and contracts. They are barred from sitting on certain school committees. They also lose legal representation in employment disputes and at dismissal hearings, as well as compensation for death and dismemberment, and disaster relief. The plaintiffs in Bain are asking why teachers who pay for union representation won through collective bargaining should lose out on those benefits simply because they refuse to pay for the union’s political campaigns.

That question has generated a great number of half-truths, lies, and general non-answers from the media and union leaders alike. For example, EdSource’s John Fensterwald wrote, “Both the CTA and CFT are obligated to negotiate contracts dealing with pay, benefits and working conditions on behalf of union and non-union teachers.” That’s true; all teachers do become “bargaining unit members,” but only because the unions insist on exclusive representation. The unions would have a better case if they would forego their monopoly status and free dissenting teachers to negotiate their own contracts. A Los Angeles Times editorial claimed the case at its core represents “an attack on the power of any public employee union to engage in politics.” Nonsense. If Bain is successful, unions would remain free to “engage in politics”; they would simply have fewer coerced dollars to spend. Alice O’Brien, general counsel for the NEA, said in a statement, “The Bain lawsuit attacks the right of a membership organization to restrict the benefits of membership to those who actually pay dues.” More nonsense. The teacher-plaintiffs are all dues payers and would remain dues payers if their case is successful.

If the Supreme Court rules in favor of the teachers in the Friedrichs case, it’s unclear what may become of Bain. The two cases have a key difference: Friedrichs claims that all union spending is political, and therefore non-member teachers should not be forced to contribute any dues at all. Bain would help teachers who want union benefits but don’t care for union politics. A favorable outcome in Bain could lead to a more flexible membership scenario, whereby teachers could still be union members, with all the benefits of membership, but not be forced to pay for what has been traditionally regarded as political spending. In any event, the teachers’ unions’ heavy-handed tactics seem to be losing force, and their days of unbridled power may be numbered. That can only be good news for those for whom the unions’ presence in education has become an albatross—teachers, kids, parents, and taxpayers alike.

SCOTUS’ Decision To Hear Friedrichs Case Has Unions In A Tizzy

Rebecca FriedrichsOn June 30th, the Supreme Court decided to hear Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association et al, a case that could seriously change the way the public employee unions (PEUs) do business. If the plaintiffs are victorious, teachers, nurses, sanitation workers, etc. would be able to work without the financial burden of paying union dues. The responses to the Court’s decision from the teachers unions and their friends have ranged from silly to contradictory to blatantly dishonest.

In a rare event, leaders of the NEA, AFT, CTA, AFSCME and SEIU released a joint statementexplaining that worker freedom would be a catastrophe for the Republic. Clutching their hankies, they told us that, “big corporations and the wealthy few are rewriting the rules in their favor, knocking American families and our entire economy off-balance.” And then, with an obvious attempt at eliciting a gasp, “…the Supreme Court has chosen to take a case that threatens the fundamental promise of America.” (Perhaps the labor bosses misunderstood the wording of the preamble to the Constitution, “In order to form a more perfect union….” No, this was not an attempt to organize workers.) While the U.S. is not without its problems, removing forced unionism will hardly dent the “fundamental promise of America.”

The California Federation of Teachers, which typically is at the forefront of any class warfare sorties, didn’t disappoint. The union claims on its website that the activity of union foes “has resulted in a sharp decline in median wages for working people and the decline of the middle class alongside the increasing concentration of income and wealth in the hands of the one per cent.” But wait a minute – the unions are the most potent political force in the country today and have been for a while. According to Open Secrets, between 1989-2014, the much maligned one-percenter Koch Brothers ranked 59th in political donations behind 18 different unions. The National Education Association was #4 at $53,594,488 and the American Federation of Teachers was 12th at $36,713,325, while the Kochs spent a measly $18,083,948 during that time period. Also, as Mike Antonucci reports, the two national teachers unions, NEA and AFT, spend more on politics than AT&T, Goldman Sachs, Wal-Mart, Microsoft, General Electric, Chevron, Pfizer, Morgan Stanley, Lockheed Martin, FedEx, Boeing, Merrill Lynch, Exxon Mobil, Lehman Brothers, and the Walt Disney Corporation, combined.”

So the question to the unions becomes, “With your extraordinary political clout and assertion that working people’s wages and membership in the middle class are declining, just what good have you done?”

Apparently very little. In fact, the National Institute for Labor Relations Research reports that when disposable personal income – personal income minus taxes – is adjusted for differences in living costs, the seven states with the lowest incomes per capita (Alaska, California, Hawaii, Maine, Oregon, Vermont, and West Virginia) are forced-union states. “Of the nine states with the highest cost of living-adjusted disposable incomes in 2011, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, Virginia and Wyoming all have Right to Work laws.” Overall, the cost of living-adjusted disposable income per capita for Right to Work states in 2011 “was more than $36,800, or roughly $2200 higher than the average for forced-unionism states.”

But the most galling and downright fraudulent union allegations about Friedrichs concern the “free rider” issue. If the case is successful, public employees will have a choice whether or not they have to pay dues to a union as a condition of employment. (There are 25 states where workers now have this choice, but in the other 25 they are forced to pay to play.) The unions claim that since they are forced to represent all workers, that those who don’t pay their “fair share” are “freeloaders” or “free riders.” The unions would have a point if someone was sticking a gun to their collective heads and said, “Like it or not, you must represent all workers.” But as Iwrote recently, the forced representation claim is a big fat lie. Heritage Foundation senior policy analyst James Sherk explains:

The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) allows unions that demonstrate majority support to negotiate as exclusive representatives. If they do so they must negotiate fairly on behalf of all employees, including those who do not pay dues. However unions may disavow (or not obtain) exclusive representative status and negotiate only for their members. Nothing in the National Labor Relations Act forces exclusive representation on unwilling unions.(Emphasis added.)

Mike Antonucci adds:

The very first thing any new union wants is exclusivity. No other unions are allowed to negotiate on behalf of people in the bargaining unit. Unit members cannot hire their own agent, nor can they represent themselves. Making people pay for services they neither asked for nor want is a ‘privilege’ we reserve for government, not for private organizations. Unions are freeloading on those additional dues.

If there are still any doubters, George Meany, the first president of the AFL-CIO, whose rein began in 1955 and continued for 24 years, told Congress:

When a union has exclusive recognition with a federal activity or agency, that union is required to represent all workers in that unit, whether or not those workers are members of the union. We do not contest this requirement. We support it for federal service, just as we support it in private industry labor-management relations.

While the NLRA applies only to private employee unions, the same types of rules invariably govern PEUs. Passed in 1976, California’s Rodda Act allows for exclusive representation and it’s up to each school district and its local union whether or not they want to roll that way. However, it is clearly in the best interest of the union to be the only representative for teachers because it then gets to collect dues from every teacher in the district. It’s also easier on school boards as they only have to deal with one bargaining entity. So it is really a corrupt bargain; there is no law foisting exclusivity on any teachers union in the state.

So exclusive representation is good for the unions and simplifies life for the school boards, but very bad for teachers who want nothing to do with organized labor. It is also important to keep in mind that the Friedrichs case is not an attempt to “bust unions.” This silly mantra is a diversionary tactic; the case in no way suggests a desire to do away with unions. So when organized labor besieges us with histrionics about “the promise of America,” the dying middle class, free riders etc., please remind them (with a nod to President Obama), “If you like your union, you can keep your union.” In this case, it’s the truth.

Originally published by Unionwatch.org

Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.

California’s Government Unions Collect $1 Billion Per Year

PileOfMoney“If you say there is an elephant in the room, you mean that there is an obvious problem or difficult situation that people do not want to talk about.”

–  Cambridge Dictionaries Online

If you study California’s Legislature, it doesn’t take long to learn there’s an elephant in both chambers, bigger and badder than every other beast. And considering the immense size of that elephant, and the power it wields, it doesn’t get talked about much.

Because that gigantic elephant is public employee unions, and politicians willing to confront them, categorically, in every facet of their monstrous power and reach, are almost nonexistent.

Government reformers and transparency advocates are fond of attacking “money in politics.” They attack “soft money” and “dark money.” Most of the time, these reformers are on the so-called political left, concerned that “rich billionaires” and “out-of-state corporations” have too much political influence. They are misguided and manipulated in this sentiment. Because billionaires contribute to both major political parties (and both political wings) roughly equally, and the largest corporations – in state and out of state – play ball with the government unions because, as monopolies or aspiring monopolies, large corporations and government unions have an identity of interests that far outweighs any motive for conflict. At the state and local level in California, there is no amount of money, anywhere, that comes close to the sums that are deployed by government unions to control our government.

Thanks to a lack of transparency so thick that public corporations, and even private sector unions, are required to submit far more publicly available reports on their operations than public sector unions, it is almost impossible to estimate how many government union members there are in California. From the U.S. Census we know that California’s “full-time equivalent” state workforce numbers 397,348, for local governments, 1,313,344, meaning there are – on a full time basis – about 1.7 million state and local workers in California. But how many of them pay dues? And what is their total statewide revenue?

If you turn to the 990 forms that government unions file with the IRS, you’ll note that the California Teachers Association’s 990 reported “dues revenue” of $172.3 million in 2012. You’ll also know they were sitting on $100 million in cash and securities, net of all long and short term liabilities and not including their fixed assets and real estate. But that’s just the financials for the CTA’s state office. If you search for “California Teachers Association” on Guidestar, here’s the message you get on the results screen: “Your search for California Teachers Association produced 1,083 results.”

As we noted in a 2012 CPC study entitled “Understanding the Financial Disclosure Requirements of Public Sector Unions:”

Most of the statewide unions, such as the CTA, the CSEA, the CFT and the CPF, collect revenue from members through their local affiliates, which themselves retain most of the money for local collective bargaining and political expenditures. There are over 1,300 CTA local affiliates, 20 (public sector) SEIU local affiliates, 42 AFSME local affiliates, 45 AFT local affiliates, several hundred CSEA (School Employees) local affiliates, and hundreds of CPF (Firefighter) local affiliates. Then there are federations of various unions, such as the California State Employees Association and the Peace Officers Research Association of California, which also collect revenue from members through local affiliates.

There are over 6,000 local government union organizations in California, each of them an independent financial entity, each of them merely required to file a minimal 990 form that barely, and with a maddening lack of clarity, discloses financial transfers between entities. Against this opacity, there is no precise way to learn just how much money California’s public sector unions collect every year, no way to determine how many members they’ve got, no way to determine their annual dues assessments.

An article published nearly five years ago on UnionWatch, “Public Sector Unions and Political Spending,” estimates the total annual dues revenue of California’s public sector unions at $1 billion per year. While the number of state and local government workers has actually declined slightly since 2010, the percentage of unionized state and local government workers has increased, as has their average pay upon which dues are calculated. That estimate, $1 billion per year, is probably still accurate.

Behind closed doors and off the record, Democrats resent government union power with increasing intensity. But apart from an isolated whisper here, a passing utterance there, they are silent. Just like their Republican colleagues who grasp for their own pathetically minute share of government union contributions, they fear the wrath of the elephant in the room at the same time as they keep taking the money.

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Ed Ring is the executive director of the California Policy Center.

Take Our Jobs, Please

JobsThere’s a joke about public sector union bosses making the rounds in Sacramento lately:  What happens when the California Legislature hands over a blank check to the California Teachers Association?  It’s returned the next day marked “insufficient.”

No matter that spending on schools is up 36 percent over the last four years, the state budget has increased 25 percent over the last three and the state is running a surplus of nearly $7 billion, it is never enough. The government employee unions are continuing to press for higher taxes and more spending from which they benefit both in terms of money and political power.

Since California already imposes the highest taxes in all 50 states in almost every category except taxes on property – we rank 19th highest – the obvious target is Proposition 13 which limits annual increases in property taxes.  To take on Proposition 13, public unions, including the two major teachers unions and the Service Employees International Union, have joined with some rag-tag groups of Bay Area radicals to create a front group, calling itself “Make It Fair.” The stated goal is to strip Proposition 13 protections away from businesses, including small mom-and-pop stores and residential rentals, thereby creating a “split roll” in order to seize another $9 billion in tax revenue annually.

To undermine support for Proposition 13 — which remains overwhelmingly popular in public opinion polls – Make It Fair attempts to make homeowners feel unjustly burdened. Backers of higher property taxes on business say that Proposition 13 provides commercial property special advantages, but it does not.   California has always taxed all real property at the same rate whether residential or business.

The facts are unimportant to the government employee unions. They accuse owners of commercial property of not paying their fair share in property taxes. This ignores studies that show that business property is actually paying a higher percentage of the total property tax than when Proposition 13 passed and that business property is generally assessed at closer to market value than is residential property. This is due to the frequent improvements businesses make to property to remain competitive and these improvements are taxed at current market value.

But if the government employee unions are really only going after owners of commercial property, why should the average homeowner be concerned?

First, those who delude themselves into believing that the appetite of unions for tax dollars will be satiated if we just give in to their demands, should know that California state and local government employees are the highest paid in the nation. They did not become this way because the union leadership were shrinking violets. Once business property is taxed at a higher rate, there is no question that residential property – homeowners – will be the next target. Already union-backed legislation has been introduced in Sacramento to make it easier to increase taxes on homeowners.

Secondly, most homeowners rely on jobs in order to pay their mortgages. If taxes on commercial property, including those on small businesses and residential rental property, are jacked up,  so prices and rents will go up as well. Business that can’t increase their prices because of competition from firms located in other states and countries are likely to join the exodus of companies that have already left California.  And they will take those jobs with them.

A recent front page story in the Torrance Daily Breeze, “Tractor Firm Kubota Exits Torrance for Texas,” illustrates the point. The report says the firm, a 43-year resident of the community, will be departing along with 180 jobs, and reminds readers that Toyota made a similar announcement last year. This hemorrhaging of jobs is a direct consequence of California’s hostile business climate, and this is before any increase in the property tax.

It would be a mistake to underestimate the negative impact that changes to Proposition 13 would have on the California economy. A study from the Pepperdine University School for Public Policy reveals that a “split roll” would result in the loss of nearly 400,000 jobs and $72 billion in economic activity over five years.

If front groups were required to adhere to truth in labeling standards, the group “Make It Fair” would be compelled to call itself either “Take Our Jobs, Please” or “Make Us Poor.”

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.

Originally published on HJTA.org

Competition-Phobic Teachers Unions Still Trying to Decimate Charter Schools

school education studentsAs I wrote a couple of years ago, the teachers unions vacillate when it comes to charter schools. On odd days they try to organize them and on even ones they go all out to eviscerate them. But the organizing efforts haven’t gone too well. The Center for Education Reform reports that, nationwide, the percentage of unionized charter schools has dropped from 12 in 2009 to a paltry 7 in 2012. In California, there is a 15 percent unionization rate, but that number, from the 2009-2010 school year, is long overdue for an update.

So if you can’t join ‘em, you try to undermine ‘em. To that end, during National School Choice Week in January, the National Education Association claimed that charter schools are unaccountable and warned the public to be wary of them. Then last week, NEA posted “Federal funding of charter schools needs more oversight, accountability” on its website.

This is pure union obstructionism and especially laughable coming from an organization whose mantra is, “Let’s spend bushels more on public education … but don’t hold any unionized teachers accountable.” In fact, there is plenty of oversight and accountability for charters. As the California Charter School Association points out, unlike traditional public schools, charters “are academically accountable on two counts. They are held accountable by their authorizer (usually the local school district) and, most importantly, by the families they serve. When a team of school developers submit their charter petition, they must define their academic goals In order to be authorized, their goals must be rigorous. In order to stay open, they must meet or exceed those goals.” Additionally charters must abide by various state and federal laws, civil rights statutes, safety rules, standard financial practices, etc.

Perhaps most importantly, charter schools – schools of choice – have to please their customers: children and their parents. On that count, charters are doing quite well. Just about every study ever done on them shows that they outperform traditional schools, and Black and Hispanic kids benefit the most. Nationally, there are 6,440 schools serving 2,513,634 students, but the bad news is that there are over a million more kids on wait lists. And the situation is especially bad in areas that need charters the most: our big cities, which serve primarily poor and minority families. A new report by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools points out that New York, Los Angeles, Houston, Boston, Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Cleveland, Miami and Washington, D.C. fail to meet parental demand.

And then there is California.

The Golden State is the national leader in charters with 1,184, serving 547,800 students. But not surprisingly it also leads the country in kids who want to get in but can’t, and there are 158,000 of them. Of course the teachers unions are saying and doing what they can to deny parents – again mostly minorities and poor – the right to escape their unionized public schools. United Teachers of Los Angeles president Alex Caputo-Pearl recently stated that “a lot of charters don’t allow access for special-education students or English learners.” This of course is bilge; charter schools must serve all students. Lest his sentiments were not clear, he added, “The ascendant forces in California’s charter movement, I don’t see a lot of value in them.”

California Teachers Association president Dean Vogel recently opined. “There is a role for charter schools in California’s education system, and that role should be performed to the same high standards of integrity, transparency and openness required of traditional public schools.”

My goodness, no! I want charters to perform at way higher standards than traditional public schools … and thankfully most do.

Sadly CTA, now in eviscerate mode, is sponsoring four bills making the rounds in the California legislature. The union’s professed aim is regulation, but it appears to be a lot more likestrangulation. The bills, which you can read about here, are nothing more than ways to limit charter growth, harass them and take away any needed independence they now have. For example, Tony Mendoza’s SB 329 would allow a charter petition to be denied for “anticipated financial impact.” This is simply a way to deny a charter for any reason and use money as an excuse. (This bill is similar Mendoza’s AB 1172 which was vetoed by Governor Jerry Brown in 2012.) AB 787 would require that all charters be run as non-profits. The bill’s author, Roger Hernández, said it would also “establish charter schools as governmental entities and their employees as public employees, giving them an increased ability to unionize.” Pure nonsense. Charters are fully capable of organizing now and only 10 in the state (less than one percent) are currently for-profit schools.

What the unions will never admit is that charter schools are effective because they are independent and not bound by the union contact, and when they are unionized, they are no different from traditional public schools. Jay Greene, in The Wall Street Journal, cited a study conducted by Harvard economist Tom Kane which found that, comparing apples to apples,

… students accepted by lottery at independently operated charter schools significantly outperformed students who lost the lottery and returned to district schools. But students accepted by lottery at charters run by the school district with unionized teachers experienced no benefit. (Emphasis added.)

The war between teacher union leaders who insist on a one-size-fits-all cookie cutter education system run by them, and parents who want to get their kids out of failing schools and into charters rages on. In the meantime, there are thousands of kids in California whose futures are in jeopardy as the teachers unions direct their cronies in the legislature to do their bidding and decimate charter schools.

This piece was originally published by UnionWatch.org

Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.