“Bargaining For Common Good” Takes A Backseat To Naked Self-Interest

A few years ago, the St. Paul Federation of Educators was boasting about how it was “bargaining for the common good” by using contract negotiations to advocate for policies that benefitted not only teachers, but parents and community stakeholders.

As then-SPFE president (and current Minnesota Commissioner of Education) Mary Cathryn Ricker explained in a piece for Dissent, the aim of “bargaining for the common good” was to show that the union sought “to improve our teaching and our schools, and not simply file grievances and try to protect our wages and benefits.”

SPFE’s approach was lauded in union-friendly media outlets like The American Prospect and was soon imitated by other teachers unions across the country.

Before her appointment as Minnesota’s Commissioner of Education, Mary Cathryn Ricker led the St. Paul Federation of Teachers.

However, recent events suggest that SPFE has dropped the “bargaining for the common good” schtick in exchange for a new mantra: “Every man for himself.”

Earlier this month, SPFE announced it was unilaterally pulling out of the district’s health insurance plan to join the state-managed Public Employees Insurance Program.

The union’s decision to leave halfway through the district’s two-year contract with HealthPartners means that St. Paul Public Schools will have to pay a $4 million early termination fee to the company.

Ironically, SPFE spent the better part of the past year decrying school funding cuts and protesting corporate tax breaks, which the union claimed had left St. Paul Public Schools chronically underfunded. SFPE was also the driving force behind a tax levy referendum last November that would raise an additional $20 million in annual revenue for schools.

SPFE spent the better part of last year campaigning against corporate tax breaks and urging voters to approve a new tax levy for schools.

“We have enough money in our state to fully fund public schools,” SPFE president Nick Faber told NEA Today at the time. “We just have to have the courage and the will to bring it back to our students.”

To their credit, St. Paul voters stepped up and approved the tax levy by a 2-to-1 margin. Yet now SPFE has the audacity to turn around and throw a $4 million chunk of that new revenue right out the window.

Even worse, SPFE’s decision to pull out of the HealthPartners contract a year early means that the 1500 district employees who remain covered under the plan (a group that includes some of the lowest-paid workers in St. Paul Public Schools) will see their premiums increase by 22 percent next year.

So much for worker solidarity.

SPFE’s willingness to squander taxpayer money and screw over their colleagues makes clear that all of their talk about the “common good” is little more than empty rhetoric. Don’t believe the hype.


WTU Turns To Politician With A History of Anti-Semitism In Bid To Upend Evals

The Council of the District of Columbia will consider legislation that could lead to the dismantling of IMPACT, the teacher evaluation system that has been used by D.C. Public Schools for the past decade.

The bill, which was drafted by the Washington Teachers Union and introduced by Councilman Trayon White last week, would make evaluations part of the collective bargaining process, meaning that teachers could only be assessed on criteria agreed upon by both DCPS and WTU.

IMPACT was introduced during the tenure of former DCPS Chancellor Michelle Rhee.

WTU has been trying replace IMPACT ever since it was introduced by former DCPS Chancellor Michelle Rhee. While union leaders like WTU president Elizabeth Davis insist the evaluation system “has had a negative impact on students, teachers and principals,” research from the University of Virginia has shown that IMPACT not only improved teacher quality, but raised student achievement.

In any case, what’s surprising about the proposed legislation is not that WTU is pushing it, but that they would ally themselves with Trayon White in an effort to get it passed. After all, most progressive organizations would strenuously avoid having anything to do with White, who has been involved in several anti-Semitic incidents during his tenure on the D.C. Council.

In March 2018, White drew widespread condemnation for a video he posted on Facebook in which he asserted that a D.C. snowstorm was the result of climate manipulation by the Rothschilds, a Jewish banking family that has historically been the focus of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. In the video, White proclaims:

“Man, it just started snowing out of nowhere this morning, man. Y’all better pay attention to this climate control, man, this climate manipulation. We a resilient city. And that’s a model based off the Rothschilds controlling the climate to create natural disasters they can pay for to own the cities, man. Be careful.”

A few days later, another video surfaced of a February 2018 meeting in which White asserted that the Rothschilds control the government. In the recording, top D.C. leaders sit stunned and perplexed while White says:

“There’s this whole concept with the Rothschilds — who control the World Bank, as we all know — infusing dollars into major cities. They really pretty much control the federal government, and now they have this concept called resilient cities in which they are using their money and influence into local cities.”

In response to the uproar over his comments, the 34 year-old councilman apologized, insisting that he didn’t realize his comments were anti-Semitic, and promised to make amends with the Jewish community. Instead, he further insulted the community by ducking out of a 90-minute tour of the Holocaust Memorial Museum that was organized by local Jewish leaders. It subsequently emerged that White used constituent services funds to give a $500 donation to support an event hosted by Louis Farrakhan, at which the Nation of Islam leader proclaimed, “powerful Jews are my enemy.”

At a time when powerful politicians are stoking the flames of intolerance and racism, the Washington Teachers Union should be speaking out against White, not enthusiastically embracing him.

I guess when it comes to the pursuit of the union’s interests, anything goes.