Some California school administrators should be ashamed of themselves. Perhaps they secretly wished they actually worked for teacher unions and not the hardworking taxpayers they actually do work for. They certainly are not working for the hard working teachers of California pulling antics like this. No one is ignorant enough to believe California is the only state where teacher union officials and district administrators stooped to such lowbrow collusion.
Will Swaim has the story in the Orange County Register.
Public school officials, politicians and teacher union leaders are working secretly to make sure California teachers don’t understand their workplace rights — in several cases even deleting email from teachers’ inboxes.
The information-suppression effort is revealed in multiple government documents obtained by the California Policy Center. In email exchanges on May 23, 2018, the documents show, Santa Ana teachers union President Barbara Pearson worked with technology staff in her district to block and delete any email encouraging teachers to resign their union membership.
The offending email highlighted the United States Supreme Court’s imminent decision in the landmark employee rights case, Janus v. AFSCME.
“Our IT department was able to block the sender and recall all messages by this afternoon,” Pearson cock-a-doodled in an email to other local teacher union presidents and school district officials. “You may want to give HR and IT a heads up and see if they can block them before they get to anyone else.”
That same night, Laurie Atkinson, a California Teachers Association organizer, was able to ease anxiety about dangerous ideas falling into the hands — and getting into the heads — of Irvine school teachers. Why? Because “Eamonn is working on it,” she said.
She was referring to Eamonn O’Donovan, Irvine Unified School District’s assistant superintendent. Atkinson added that officials and staff in nearby Tustin Unified had “blocked [email referencing the Janus decision] as of this afternoon.”
One month later, on June 27, 2018, the Supreme Court would declare that requiring government employees to pay unions violates their First Amendment rights of speech and association. Just one day after that, state California Teachers Association activist Atkinson emailed Irvine Unified’s O’Donovan to ask for his assurance that his staff would do nothing to make teachers aware of their rights.
“I dropped off new CTA [California Teachers Association] enrollment forms,” Atkinson told O’Donovan. “One of your employees … wanted to know if she should contact new employees who had selected [union] membership …” The new teachers in question had apparently asked if they were required to join the union. Atkinson said she told the Irvine staffer that if she or other district administrators “were having a moral issue over this they could give me the names of the new hires they are sitting on so I can speak with them directly … I know Terry [Walker, Irvine Unified School District superintendent] and the IUSD Board are very supportive of ITA so perhaps the ladies who do the onboarding should be aware of this. Give me a call when you have time.”
“We won’t have any issues,” O’Donovan responded. “I have had conversations with all of them already in anticipation of Janus going sideways. I’ve made it very clear that we are supportive of unions and union membership as a service to our employees.”
About that same time, O’Donovan emailed his staff “to be very careful to be neutral in your answers” to questions about the meaning of the Janus decision. He seemed to contradict himself immediately, saying that if any district employee had questions about union membership, “refer him [or] her to ITA [Irvine Teachers Association] or CSEA [California School Employees Association] to learn about union member benefits.”
The idea that union leaders would violate the First Amendment rights of their own members shouldn’t come as a surprise — even when those union leaders are teachers who ostensibly value the free exchange of ideas. That’s because there’s something more fundamental to union leaders than constitutional rights and academic freedom: money. Deducting cash from the paychecks of government workers — totaling nearly $1 billion annually in California — allows government union leaders to fund the campaigns of politicians who, once in office, return the favor with laws that enhance their power.
The union-government communications clampdown helps explain why an astonishing number of teachers can’t pick the Janus decision out of a lineup. A new national poll from the Teacher Freedom Project reveals that, one year after the Supreme Court decision, 52 percent of teachers still don’t know they have the right to leave their union, and half of those who know they can resign their membership mistakenly believe resigning means they’ll lose their benefits, including health insurance and pensions. They won’t, but so long as union leaders and friendly government administrators control the flow of workplace information, the truth is still out there.
Recognizing that government officials almost always understand the law better than the citizens they’re supposed to serve, the Supreme Court in 1966 required police to advise suspects of their constitutional rights. These Miranda rights, as they’re called, are such a common feature of television cop shows that most of us can repeat them from memory.
Teachers shouldn’t have to fight their own union and government. What’s needed to preserve their rights — and the rights of all of California’s civil service workers — is something like the Miranda rights: If you’re a government worker, you have the right to join or not join a union. If you choose not to join a union, you won’t lose any of the benefits you currently have — your salary, pension, health insurance, pay raises and more.
And you’ll gain two things. If you’re a teacher, you’ll save the approximately $1,000 you pay annually for membership in the union. That’ll help you get over the frustrating sense that the union leaders who claim to be defending you have been using your own money against you.
Will Swaim is president of California Policy Center and cohost of National Review’s Radio Free California Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @willswaim.https://ceafu.org/2019/07/23/california-school-administrators-live-in-ctas-pocket/