Saturday, September 22, 2007

Teachers Union Officials Enriching Themselves? Say It Ain't So!

My union's contract with my school district runs afoul of state law, and probably federal law as well.

As you can learn at the CTEN web site, teachers who choose not to be in the union have two options: become an agency fee payer, entitled to a rebate of those fees the union claims it doesn't spend of collective bargaining, and becoming a religious objector. It's in the area of religious objection that my contract runs afoul of the law.

First off, my contract requires that religious objectors present proof of membership in a church that has historic and/or verifiable objections to union membership or activities. Holy First Amendment violation, Batman! (Such requirements have been banned in some federal court jurisdictions, but not yet in Californa--see this year's Katter case in Ohio.)

Additionally, California law requires that religious objectors pay an amount equal in union dues to a non-religious, non-labor organization, and that there must be at least three to choose from (often agreed to by the union and the district). Here's the appropriate section of law, Section 3546.3:

Notwithstanding subdivision (i) of Section 3540.1, Section 3546, or any other provision of this chapter, any employee who is a member of a religious body whose traditional tenets or teachings include objections to joining or financially supporting employee organizations shall not be required to join, maintain membership in, or financially support any employee organization as a condition of employment; except that such employee may be required, in lieu of a service fee, to pay sums equal to such service fee either to a nonreligious, nonlabor organization, charitable fund exempt from taxation under Section 501(c) (3) of Title 26 of the Internal Revenue Code, chosen by such employee from a list of at least three such funds, designated in the organizational security arrangement, or if the arrangement fails to designate such funds, then to any such fund chosen by the employee.

I emailed my district personnel folks and asked about our contract provision, which mentions such charitable funds, but doesn't list any. I was told that the contract language in that section hasn't changed in 10 years or more, and that there's only one charitable organization that's approved--and it's run and administered by the teachers union! I don't care who or what they're giving money to, if it's run by the union, I don't think it can legitimately be called a non-labor organization!

That's an exceedingly long introduction to this story from Las Vegas, about union officers' making beaucoup dinero running the local union's charitable foundation.

n the 2004 tax year, the latest for which information is available, the foundation spent more than $800,000 on these worthwhile endeavors. But the foundation has also proven to be a boon for people who run it. Also in the 2004 tax year, it spent more than $600,000 on overhead costs. Of that amount, about $400,000 went to salaries -- including (union Executive Director) Jasonek's -- which comprise about 28 percent of the foundation's expenses. It might make sense if those fat paychecks went for the long, grueling hours. The clincher is, it doesn't look like top brass is burning the midnight oil. On tax forms, Jasonek is listed as working 12 hours a week for the foundation.

"It's like working a part-time job at Subway," he explains.

But others can't help but wonder whether Jasonek -- and others -- are feasting on a foot-long greed sandwich.

The foundation pays Mr. Jasonek over $129,000 per year, and that's in addition to his $135,000 job as Executive Director of the local union.

Some might suggest that's a little excessive.

"Am I supposed to be penalized for doing a good job?" Jasonek says.

Apparently Mr. Jasonek believes in "merit pay for me, but not for thee".

Please, go read the whole thing.

No comments: