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Unions fight to protect their own interests against Prop 1

Unions fight to protect their own interests against Prop 1

Wayne Hoffman
October 7, 2012

I have read just about every school labor union agreement in the state and have yet to find a single one that was written to protect the interests of children, their safety and the availability of classroom supplies.

I point this out simply because the labor unions have released a new ad in opposition to Proposition 1. The unions are asking you to vote no using a sanctimoniously deceptive rationale for why they believe the law to be bad public policy.
“Prop 1 prohibits teachers from negotiating over important things like overcrowded classrooms, supplies and student safety,” says the newest ad from the Vote No crowd.

From this, you should draw upon imagery of teachers in chainmail plunging their swords through the leathery chests of those uncaring, fiendish school board members and smiting the villainy from their evil beating hearts, all for the betterment of students.
Great scenes for a movie script, I should think. But Prop 1 isn’t about teachers fighting for students. Prop 1 is about union bosses fighting for unions. Prop 1 is about union power, nothing more.

When we were researching our “2011 Idaho Report on Government Waste” we found education union bosses finding new and interesting ways to shake down taxpayers for increasing amounts of money. Points for creativity. Zero points for sticking up for kids.

Not once did I read a union labor contract that put student issues first. Not on class sizes. Not on safety. Not on school supplies. To the contrary, unions came first in every contract. Always. In contracts negotiated in secret, union bosses made sure the union's interests were placed ahead of everything else.

The Boise School District came up with 13 ways to give its teachers paid leave, including paid time off for educators appointed or elected to the Legislature. The Lapwai School District's union contract expressly forbade student contact time in excess of 375 minutes per day. The Lake Pende Oreille School District made seniority THE priority in filling vacancies—not qualifications, not dedication, not success in boosting students achievement. Why seniority? Senior teachers are paid more and pay higher union dues.

School districts came up with lucrative arrangements that funneled money to the education union. Boise's school district found a way to encourage payroll deductions for the Idaho Education Association. The Nampa School District reimbursed employees for membership in professional organizations, including education labor unions.

Labor contracts also forced school districts to pay for union bosses at the expense of taxpayers. Nampa and Boise school districts penned contracts that paid teachers to run unions and excused them from classroom time.

School districts also provided paid time off for teachers to attend union meetings. Among these were Cottonwood, Lakeland (Rathdrum), Mackay, Meridian, Post Falls and Troy.

What’s more, by law, union contracts were negotiated behind closed doors. The union contracts were a matter of public record, but generally, the public was oblivious to what the unions were doing. And some contracts were negotiated years—even decades earlier.
Idaho law said that if either the school board or the union didn’t want to renegotiate a contract, the existing agreement remained in place. Forever. So across Idaho, unions worked diligently to elect their lackeys to school boards so that the unions could negotiate with themselves for whatever they wanted and lock those benefits into place.

Students Come First—specifically Prop 1—changes all of that. Now, collective bargaining is all about salaries and benefits, nothing else. Unions must show that they represent a majority of teachers in order to demand labor negotiations. Seniority isn’t the deciding factor in staffing decisions. Tenure is phased out. Parents are allowed feedback and input on teacher and principal evaluations. And significantly, union labor agreements take place under the sunlight of an open meeting.

In a memo to supporters last year, an Idaho Education Association official wrote, "it's easier to get the public riled up about laptops and online classes than contract issues." So it is surprising that the union would even mention Prop 1. But they figure they've come up with a line that you will fall for-- pretending that the education unions are most motivated to protect the interest of kids.

But if that were true, we wouldn't need to have Prop 1.

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