American Consequences - March 2021


When the boss (in this case, a Democratic mayor or governor or president) is beholden to the teachers unions, he or she tends to run on a platform that aligns with their demands. With regard to school reopenings, that means schools are staying closed where unions have clout . As researchers at the American Enterprise Institute’s “Return to Learn” school reopening tracker project found, “Districts in counties that voted for Joe Biden have three times the percentage of fully remote districts compared to counties that voted for Donald Trump.” At the AFT’s annual convention last summer, amid the pandemic, President Randi Weingarten rattled off a list of progressive policy goals and noted, “That’s not from an AFT resolution. That’s straight from the Democratic Party platform, born out of the Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force recommendations we helped draft.” She also insisted that teachers were akin to “first responders” like doctors and nurses, and “essential workers” like grocery store employees and truck drivers, even though none of those other groups have enjoyed the luxury, as teachers do, of refusing to show up in person to perform their jobs while still getting paid. Weingarten can boast of her union’s power because it’s real... In states and school districts with powerful unions, the threat of strikes is unmatched by any equivalent power on the side of school officials. Due to collective bargaining agreements negotiated by many unions, school officials are often legally barred from firing teachers. And while elected officials face many restrictions on lobbying, unions have large portions of their budgets devoted solely to the practice, and a great deal

Affairs more than 10 years ago, there are more public-sector employees who are union members than private-sector employees, and thus unionized workers “are more likely to be teachers, librarians, trash collectors, policemen, or firefighters than they are to be carpenters, electricians, plumbers, auto workers, or coal miners.” In states and school districts with powerful unions, the threat of strikes is unmatched by any equivalent power on the side of school officials. The teachers unions are among the Democratic Party’s largest donors and most reliable voters. Even after the Supreme Court’s 2018 decision in Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 31 , which limited public sector unions’ ability to compel workers to pay union dues, teachers unions have lost none of their political power. As DiSalvo and Michael Hartney note in Education Next ... Since 1990, the AFT and the NEA have regularly been among the top 10 contributors to federal electoral campaigns. They have forged an alliance with the Democratic Party, which receives the vast majority of their hard-money campaign contributions as well as in- kind contributions for get-out-the-vote operations. [Teachers unions are] the single largest organizational bloc of Democratic Party activists.


March 2021

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