Unions say they are the big winners

Arlene Violet

Arlene VioletRecently, I got my hands on “The Federationist”, a newsletter published by the Teachers and Health Professionals branch of the AFL/CIO. The content was informative. It is basically a self-congratulatory piece but clearly outlines the “victories” achieved by the Rhode Island union, both with issues and with politicians. It’s essentially a guerilla warfare manual.  Here’s why.
Union President Frank Flynn spoke about the success of the Chicago Teachers’ Union strike, whose leaders attributed the outcome to a single most important reason: the union had spent the previous eighteen months organizing parents and community groups. Polls showed that after the first week of the strike, the union had the support of 64 percent of parents who had been clued to the argument that union demands were in the best interest of the students. That’s quite an accomplishment, since these teachers enjoy the most lucrative salary and benefits package in the United States. The parental backing provided the pressure that led the elected city officials to cave.
Mr. Flynn also noted that in Cranston, the local teachers’ union did exactly the same thing by mobilizing both parents and students to defeat the approval of a Mayoral Academy. You can be sure that, moving forward, parents and students will be lobbied months in advance of any contracts or legislation that benefits teachers’ unions.
The newsletter also touts its success in getting labor-friendly candidates elected to office, bragging about ousting Woonsocket’s Jon Brien in favor of union firefighter Stephen Casey. According to the Union president,  public school teachers William O’Brien of Providence, Adam Satchell of West Warwick and Gregg Amore of East Providence joined the General Assembly because they were recruited by local unions to run. He went on to note that the candidates said that they would not forget what the union did for them.
These union-backed candidates join 8 union-endorsed senators and 18 union-endorsed House candidates at the state house. The public can be sure that the union support will be rewarded by the promotion of the pro-union arbitration bill, and expect the progress of Student Learning Objective (SLO), an evaluation system of student achievement, to slow considerably.
The union newsletter pounded anew State Treasurer, Gina Raimondo, for her pension reform effort. Choosing to characterize her advocacy as the decimation of public worker’s pensions, the publication conveniently omits the reality that if it were not for her efforts, newcomers to the system would be left with an empty pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. It was silent on Governor Lincoln Chafee’s role.  Perhaps by not blasting him they are marshaling his support to let Education head, Deborah Gist, go when her contract comes up this spring. Her “mistakes” have been to ask for accountability and to prevent  children from  securing meaningless diplomas as they “graduate”  unprepared for jobs. The unions are gearing up to change the messenger—yet not the academic outcome.  If the action plan in the newsletter is followed, you’ll be recruited to wave goodbye to Ms. Gist.


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