Saturday, May 12, 2007

Zarko Continues to Reveal MEA Tactics

Chet Zarko continues to post shocking emails found in his FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request to Howell Schools.

Here is a link to his blog/website.

If you haven't been following this, Zarko is an investigative reporter and consultant that FOIA'ed emails of the Howell teacher's union president and others involved in the bargaining of the union contract. Instead of using the email available to them through the MEA -- or using their own Yahoo email accounts -- the union appears to be using the school's public email system to conduct union business. That is certainly permissible, but there is no guarantee of privacy because it is a public system. Employees are notified of that every time they log into their email.

Anyway, the email shows a few teachers who want to lobby parents when they are showing up for conferences, and use private address lists of students/parents for non-school matters.

It also reveals the pressure put on union members to capitulate to leadership demands, and shows how dissenting opinions are squashed and dissenters ridiculed.

I also found it interesting to read the union line on why they don't communicate with members during negotiations. I'd often heard that union leaders don't discuss the bargaining goals with members, and I never understood why members would tolerate such secrecy about their own compensation.

I've been told that the union claims it is illegal, which is absolutely false. However, nobody was ever able to cite the law used by the union leadership.

But the mystery is finally revealed in the emails. Union reps claim revealing details would be considered an Unfair Labor Practice. I have not seen any facts to support that claim. What bargainers are not allowed to do is make public their offers or counteroffers BEFORE they are seen by the other side.

Given the resources of the MEA, it's hard to believe that their local leadership is so unfamiliar with the law.

The Mackinac Center produced a fact-filled and informative book on collective bargaining.
The Collective Bargaining Primer can be found here. I think most people would be shocked if they knew the absurdity of the whole process, and how it has nothing to do with education or children.


Communications guru said...

That’s completely false. Zarko is a political consultant for rightwing candidates, a rightwing zealot and a rightwing operative. You have to wonder who is paying him for this anti-union attack job and picking up the expenses for things like the FOIA request and other expenses. The only thing you can be sure of is he will not tell you.

Almost his entire case is the email, and if you read the article written about the case the school district’s attorney said it’s an accepted practice. This is a case of a lot of smoke, generate by Zarko, but no fire. Privacy is not an issue, but there has to be a reason to make private emails public.

The emails do show a suggestion was made to pass out flyers at a parent-teacher conference, but it never happened. I don’t see the relevance of the internal workings of the union. They elected union representatives to speak and bargain for them, and that’s what they are doing. It’s called representative government, and it’s the same form of government practiced in the U.S. and state Congress. I sure not every union member voted for every leader. I can guarantee I never voted for my state representative, Senator or U.S. Congressman. However, they represent me just the same, and I rarely agree with any of their positions or votes.

Who says unions don’t communicate with members during negotiations? The bottom line is the members have to vote to approve the contact in the end, so why does it matter to you when the union leadership communicates with their members?

What “mystery is finally revealed in the emails?

The Mackinac Center. Now there is an unbiased source of information.

Mike Reno said...

If you read the emails, you'll see it's Norton who doesn't communicate with his members. Someone asked for details, and he declines to answer.

The "mystery" refers to the rationale the MEA feeds to it's members about why the leadership can't share with members the bargaining details, or in this case what the district is offering.

The MEA hides behind "unfair labor practice", when in reality they are saying, "None of your business."

And MEA members are certainly free to accept that without questioning it. I was merely curious what excuse the union leadership offers when members ask for details.

Anonymous said...

The host of this site seems to have unlimited time for issues in outside districts. I ask. What is he doing for Rochester?

Chet said...

Communications Guru is a personal attack artist who can't make any other argument than "he's a rightwing zealot". He claims this is a "fact" (a "simple" one at that) - but CG doesn't even know the difference between "fact" and "opinion" - and he claims to be a professional writer.

Now CG asserts - without evidence - that the passing out of flyers at a PTO "didn't happen", based on the words of Doug Norton, the very subject of interest. He accepts that assertion despite the physical evidence - that a flyer was not only conceived of, but made to the detail of having graphics, and transmitted by e-mail as an attachment of under Norton's order (even though Norton told a reporter it was a "second-hand idea" and "dismissed", he was the one who came up with it, according to the email, and his subordinates acted on it). So CG, without evidence and a desire to protect his ideological compatriots, simply accepts everything Norton says, despite the obvious potential bias and the plain evidence, and then CG, without anything other than his instincts, attacks the messenger as being part of the right-wing conspiracy.

He just can't believe that people might be running down their own tracks and believe in what they do. Or at least non-modern-liberals can't ...

Then anonymous attacks with the well-worn "the host of this site" spends too much time outside of his "own" district of Rochester. Similar to the attack on me for not being from Howell. Well, I say this -- all the districts of Michigan belong to all the taxpayers of Michigan. No true liberal (or conservative or any rational person) would disagree with that premise. Your argument that people are only entitled to comment on - or only have a vested interest in the outcome of education in their "own district" is flatly absurd. Districts are not only interdependent, but failure in part of Michigan hurts everyone.

Anonymous said...

So the truth becomes an attack?

I ask again of "MY" elected official, what has he done for my kids?

His involvement in Romeo, Bloomfield, Howell, and other places is simply a logistical issue.

He has a buisness to run and a family.

When does he have time for constructive work in Rochester?

I see lots of rhethoric but no results.

It is a reasonable question.

Mike Reno said...

You made the same post on the Eccentric's chat board, only they don't let you post anonymously there.

As you are well aware, I've been an advocate for a wide variety of improvements. A few examples would be advocacy for balanced budgets, improved building security, increased AP participation, gifted and talented programs, improved communication with the public, health benefit reform, closing the achievement gap between buildings, ending no-bid contracts, and a move towards measurable objectives.

I'm trying to affect positive change, and given that school boards tend to operate as herds, it seems clear that part of my efforts need to include changing the direction of the whole herd.

You haven't really asked for anything specific to be done. What exactly would you like to see accomplished?

Anonymous said...

"I see lots of rhetoric but no results."

Maybe you need to ask the rest of your school board. Mike Reno seems to be the only guy doing anything constructive with his position and this seems to bug the other gasbags.

Communications guru said...

Look who is calling the kettle black. I am far from “a personal attack artist,” and it is you that went looking to further your anti-union crusade. Since when is the truth an attack? You are a rightwing zealot, and you cannot honestly expect anyone to believe your decision to attack Howell teachers has anything to do with your community spirit.

Then you prove the flyer was put out. Scan it and present it. You have no trouble posting personal emails, so why not post the flyer? I live less than a mile from both Howell High School and the freshman campus and I am at the high school almost everyday at the swimming pool. I have never seen this flyer or talked to anyone who has.

Produce it.