Massive Teachers Union Gets Taken to School, Learns Difficult Lesson After Conservative Group Appears

Massive Teachers Union Gets Taken to School, Learns Difficult Lesson After Conservative Group Appears

It seemed like a fairly straight story from the Miami Herald, published Dec. 19: “Miami-Dade teachers begin fight to keep union after failing membership audit.”

The premise: Florida’s biggest teachers union — the United Teachers of Dade, which represents educators in Miami-Dade County — has failed to meet the threshold of a new right-to-work law that can decertify any union that doesn’t have at least 60 percent of its members paying dues.

“In a statement sent exclusively to the Miami-Herald on Tuesday, UTD confirmed that an audit conducted by an independent auditor showed that the number of eligible employees who were union-paying members fell short of the threshold, despite UTD adding more than eligible 800 new members, ‘an unprecedented growth in the past five months,'” the Herald reported.

The law, Senate Bill 256, had been a key initiative supported by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and other state Republicans; along with the 60-percent dues-paying threshold, it also forbade unions from withdrawing directly from educators’ paychecks.

Alas, the union said, “we have not achieved the new 60 percent membership density mandated by the onerous anti-worker law.” While UTD didn’t say how much it had missed by, according to the Herald, it was only at 58.4 percent paying dues the week before it received a review.

What neither UTD nor the Miami Herald was talking about was the fact that the union quite possibly was put in this mess by a conservative activist group.

In October, CBS News reported, public school teachers were targeted with flyers and social media videos by the Freedom Foundation, a think tank that urged union members to stop paying their dues with the aim of decertifying and creating a new alternative labor organization, the Miami Dade Education Coalition.

In one of the videos, Shawn Beightol — a 30-year teacher who has previously run and lost a bid to lead UTD — said those looking to decertify “are going to be solely focused on working for the teachers and providing the best classroom conditions, the best local school conditions possible.”

“We have a piece of paper that’s called a contract that’s really not worth much more than toilet paper,” Beightol said. “When Miami-Dade Education Coalition succeeds at replacing the United Teachers of Dade, you’re going to see your dues drop.”

You find this information 23 paragraphs into the CBS News article. Meanwhile, four paragraphs into the story, you find a quote from Columbia University professor Alex Hertel-Fernandez, described thusly in the fifth paragraph: “A former member of the Labor Department in the Biden Administration, he is the author of ‘State Capture,’ which documents the far-right’s attack on worker rights.”

Ah, clearly an unbiased source. Naturally, the definition of “far-right” includes a mention of one of the Koch brothers, who helps fund the Freedom Foundation (seventh paragraph), the fact the organization “held a national Teacher Summit at this resort near Denver, providing all-expense paid trips for several Miami Dade teachers to attend the conference where it pitched them on the idea of creating a group to take down UTD” (ninth paragraph) and a clumsy quote from a Freedom Foundation regional director who sounded like he’d just been cornered on the phone and told CBS News was running the story in 15 minutes and would like a quote (12th paragraph).

In case you were wondering about what Mr. Hertel-Fernandez had to say about these pernicious “far-righters,” this was the very insightful pull-quote CBS got from its discussion with the distinguished pedagogue: “These aren’t isolated state by state episodes, but rather part of a bigger arc, a bigger campaign to try and defang, defund and demobilize public sector labor unions, particularly teachers unions.”

He says that like it’s a bad thing.

And still, Hertel-Fernandez and his media enablers don’t get it. While it would be nice to see public sector labor unions defanged — and the Freedom Foundation does actively encourage that end — it’s particularly that this is a teachers union in Florida, one of the states where the left’s radical education agenda has hit a massive parental roadblock.

And while teachers have long known that classroom indoctrination and union power were dangerous bed-buddies, they didn’t have an avenue to express their displeasure — until now, that is.

“If United Teachers of Dade spent half as much time paying attention to their members’ interests as they have been pushing a political agenda with Randi Weingarten and running for office with [failed Democratic gubernatorial candidate] Charlie Crist, they probably wouldn’t even be in this position,” Allison Beattie, director of labor relations at the Freedom Foundation, said in a Dec. 26 news release.

“Now, they’ve spent the last few months scrambling to get their unsatisfied customers back, and they couldn’t do it,” she said.

That “scrambling” is described in detail in the Freedom Foundation’s statement: “UTD quickly recognized the threat MDEC posed and immediately began attacking the Freedom Foundation for the high crime of sending information to teachers in the district informing them of their rights, while also spreading misinformation that MDEC would be run by the Freedom Foundation,” it read.

“The UTD also offered $100 gift cards to members who signed up more teachers, and kicked the substitute teaching population out of the bargaining unit altogether, thereby lowering the number to meet the 60 percent threshold. In the final days before the report deadline, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) flew in dozens of staffers to boost sign-up efforts, to no avail.”

Meanwhile, UTD is blaming everyone but itself, naturally.

“We barely have five months to move the entire bargaining unit and union over to a new form of dues membership collection,” said UTD president Karla Hernández-Mats, according to the Miami Times. “It is a heavy, heavy lift. We’re talking about over 13,000 members.”

So, just to get this straight: A conservative movement aimed at decertifying the union under new rules isn’t a heavy lift, but the entrenched power in the union having five months to get its act together was simply too short for it to hoist the unbearable burden of proving its members actually want to pay for the privilege of being represented by the union.

Is that your final answer, President Hernández-Mats? Or would you like to use one of your lifelines to phone reality?

Now, before anyone starts on a victory lap, it’s worth noting that falling short of 60 percent dues-paying membership doesn’t automatically decertify a union. After the initial audit, the union has to prove that 30 percent of its membership wants a union, followed by a recertification vote where the union has to get over 50 percent.

How goeth that? The Miami Herald, again Dec. 19: “On Tuesday, UTD confirmed it was collecting ‘showing of interest cards’ to meet that initial requirement of 30% — though union leadership told the Herald that effort had been underway even before they were made aware of the audit’s outcome. UTD did not respond to a question regarding how many cards its collected so far.”

If they’ve already been collecting and they were on pace to easily get that magic 30 percent number, more than likely they’d be trumpeting that fact to anyone who would listen at the Miami Herald, CBS News and elsewhere.

That they didn’t bodes ill for the UTD — and well for both educators and parents in Miami-Dade County, who may have just put the state’s largest teachers union out of business.

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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