Saturday, June 14, 2014

That Full-page Union-bashing Ad in USA Today

This From Deutsch29:

Remember that five-story billboard in Times Square in December 2013 and the accompanying full-page ad in the New York Times blaming American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten for 2012 US PISA scores?

Both were the work of a union-busting “nonprofit,” the deceptively-named Center for Union Facts.
Well, on June 12, 2014, the same union-busting group posted this full-page ad celebrating the teacher tenure mis-ruling in California’s Vergara trial:

The Vergara trial amounts to nothing more than well-funded privatizers attempting to strip teachers of due porcess rights. Here is a summation of the case as posted by education historian Diane Ravitch:
The plaintiffs argued that poor and minority children suffered because they had ineffective teachers who could not be fired. Lawyers for the teachers unions maintained that the causes of low performance were poverty and inadequate school funding. The plaintiffs prevailed and promised to take their cause to other states with strong teacher job protections, like New Jersey and New York.
There will be appeals, and the battle will spread to other states. As due process is removed, it seems to be replaced by evaluations of “effectiveness” based on test scores.
The long-range question is whether the “reformers’” efforts to remove all job protections from teachers will affect the number of people who choose teaching as a career and how they will affect the nature of the profession over time.
For an excellent detailing of the Vergara trial, the decision, and varied responses, follow this link to Ravitch’s blog.

Teacher tenure” is due process, not a lifetime job guarantee. Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis explains as much in this eight-minute video.

This brings us back to that full-page USA Today ad bashing unions and encouraging the public to sue “to protect kids.”

Ironically, not only were none of the plaintiffs’ teachers documented as “ineffective”; some of these plaintiffs did not even attend schools where teachers had due process at all.
As Ravitch notes:
I was curious to learn whether the plaintiffs in the Vergara trial actually had “grossly ineffective teachers.” The answer is “no, they did not.”

Not only did none of them have a “grossly ineffective” teacher, but some of the plaintiffs attended schools where there are no tenured teachers. Two of the plaintiffs attend charter schools, where there is no tenure or seniority, and as you will read below, “Beatriz and Elizabeth Vergara both attend a “Pilot School” in LAUSD that is free to let teachers go at the end of the school year for any reason, including ineffectiveness.

It turns out that the lawyers for the defense checked the records of the plaintiffs’ teachers, and this is what they found (filed as a post-trial brief in the case): (See pp. 5-6).

“Plaintiffs have not established that the statutes have ever caused them any harm or are likely to do so in the future. None of the nine named Plaintiffs established that he or she was assigned to an allegedly grossly ineffective teacher, or that he or she faces any immediate risk of future harm, as a result of the challenged statutes. The record contains no evidence that Plaintiffs Elliott, Liss, Campbell or Martinez were ever assigned a grossly ineffective teacher at all. Of the remaining five Plaintiffs, most of the teachers whom they identified as “bad” or “grossly ineffective” were excellent teachers. [Emphasis added.]


Of course, union-bashing Center for Union Facts had to kick the teaching profession when it was down by encouraging the spread of this utter absence of justice to other states.

But who is behind the so-called Center for Union Facts?

Rick Berman, and does he have a self-serving story. Here is a detailed excerpt I wrote as part of this December 2013 post:
CUF is a front for union bashing. This is what CUF does. CUF is not concerned “with” education; CUF is concerned “against” teachers unions. So, the issues it pretends to raise in its ads (not only in newspapers, but also on radio) are done in order to undermine collective bargaining.
Unions are certainly not the sole Berman target. Berman uses his front groups to attack anyone who stands in the way of his mystery funders’ profits.
Berman serves corporate America in shady fashion. Allow me to offer some Sourcewatch highlights:
Although Berman used to fly under the media radar, by now he is well-known and widely regarded as an industry shill, having been the subject of a 60 Minutespiece in 2007that dubbed him “Dr. Evil,” a public takedown on the Rachel Maddow Show, and years of research documenting his close ties to industries looking for a well paid hired gun to defend the indefensible. He has attacked respected scientists and scholars, food safety experts, and even Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).
Despite this documented lack of credibility, Berman continues to work through a variety of research-for-hire front groups to remain relevant by creating a façade of academic respectability for extreme policies that many mainstream companies, scientists, and voters have rejected.
Berman has raised millions of dollars from companies, trade associations and individuals, but refuses to name them. According to the National Journal, the Employment Policies Institute was started “by a group of restaurant companies” that at the time (1995) got “95% of its budget from corporate sources—primarily restaurateurs and retailers.” Several years ago an unnamed former Berman employee revealed a list of Berman’s 2001-2002 corporate funders, including Coca-Cola, Cargill, Monsanto, Tyson Foods, Wendy’s, Outback Steakhouse and Applebee’s.
“We always have a knife in our teeth,” Berman has said, and his approach is “to shoot the messenger.” Restaurant industry spokespeople have praised his “outstanding work as an industry Doberman.” 60 Minutes called him “the booze and food industries’ weapon of mass destruction.”  …
Rick Berman conceived the idea of theGuest Choice Networkfront group to help advance the goals of Philip Morris‘ Accommodation Program while appearing to be more of a grass-roots-led effort. …
Berman is also counsel for the American Beverage Institutewhich also fronts for the tobacco industry. …
Berman formed a group called Beverage Retailers Against Drunk Driving” (BRADD), a pro-social drinking group, in response to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). …
For several years, Berman has been fighting efforts by the voter registration/community organizing group ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Nowto raise the minimum wage at the state and federal levels. To assist with his efforts, Berman created a Web site,, slamming the group. Contact information on directs readers to theEmployment Policies Institute,[23]a Bermanfront groupwhich shares the same address as Berman’s lobbying business, Berman & Company. …
As head of theCenter for Consumer Freedom(CCF), afront groupfor the restaurant, tobacco, and alcohol industries, Berman has specialized in the no-holds-barred intimidation tactics pioneered by Big Tobacco. …
In an October 9, 1989 commentary for Nation’s Restaurant News, Berman opposed the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act(“ADA”). He wrote, “The ADA in its present form will cost our industry untold millions in added construction and labor costs.”  [Emphasis added.]
So, this is the kind of ‘work” for which Berman is known.
The real story is on Berman’s nonprofit tax returns.
Berman Nonprofits Paying Berman
In the last several months, I have read at least 100 nonprofit tax returns. Nothing I have seen equals what I am about to write for its obviousness in corporate profits being funneled through nonprofits.
This is the 2011 990 for Berman’s CUF. Berman is listed as CUF’s president and executive director.
In 2011, CUF’s total revenue was $3.24 million.
In 2011, CUF’s highest paid “independent contractor” was Richard Berman and Company, Inc., to the tune of $870,182.
This is the 2011 990 for Berman’s American Beverage Institute (ABI). Berman is listed as president and general counsel-director.
In 2011, ABI’s total revenue was $1.76 million.
In 2011, ABI’s only “independent contractor” was Richard Berman and Company, Inc., to the tune of $1.35 million.
This is the 2011 990 for the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF). Berman is listed as president and executive director.
In 2011, CCF’s total revenue was $1.4 million.
In 2011, CCF’s highest paid “independent contractor” was Richard Berman and Company, Inc., to the tune of $1.3 million.
This is the 2011 990 for Berman’s Employment Policies Institute Foundation (EPIF). Berman is listed as president and executive director.
In 2011, EPIF’s total revenue was $1.6 million.
In 2011, EPIF’s highest paid “independent contractor” was Richard Berman and Company, Inc., to the tune of $1.1 million.
There is a fifth nonprofit that Berman runs, the Enterprise Freedom Action Committee (aka the Employment Freedom Action Committee) (EFAC). It is listed as the co-sponsor with CUF of the Labor Pains blog used to blast both Weingarten and now Ravitch (in defense of Weingarten).
EFAC’s 990 notes that EFAC “advocate[s] on behalf of employee choice in the workplace, in particular related to issues of union organizing, job growth and health care options.”
EFAC was quiet in 2011. According to its 2011 990, it produced only $322 in revenue. However, EFAC’s total revenue for 20082009, and 2010 combined was $20.3 million, with most of it ($16 million) paid to Orion Precision Marketing Research (CT) for “media brokerage.”
Despite its virtually nonexistent revenue in 2011, Berman still managed to use EFAC to transfer nonprofit funds into his for-profit.
As the Charity Navigator notes,
During our analysis of this charity’s FYE 2011 Form 990, the document revealed that more than half of Enterprise Freedom Action Committee’s functional expenses were paid to its CEO Richard Berman’s for-profit management company, Berman and Company.  The document revealed that, out of total expenses of $136,000, $82,000 were paid to Berman and Company. See relevant pages from the organization’s 2011 Form 990 filing via PDF files “EFACpage10” and “EFACscheduleLpage2” for  more information.
We find the practice of a charity contracting for management services with a business owned by that charity’s CEO atypical as compared to how other charities operate and have therefore issued this Donor Advisory.
Affiliated nonprofits also have Donor Advisories including: Center for Consumer FreedomAmerican Beverage InstituteEmployment Policies Institute Foundation and the Center for Union Facts.  [Emphasis added.]
If Berman (aka CUF, ABI, CCF, EPIF and EFAC) thinks that his accusing Weingarten and, in turn, Ravitch absolves him of his own “elephant,” he either has had a partial lobotamy or believes that the American public has had one.
Berman is hooking for corporate. Evidently it pays quite well.
Berman does not care for children. He serves himself by way of the corporate interests who pay him.
For Berman and the misnamed Center for Union Facts, the Vergara verdict is a convenience to be used. And buying full-page ads is nothing new for him.


Anonymous said...

As I have said multiple times, I am not sure why anyone would ever choose to be a teacher. It was bad enough to be striped of public trust through sensationalized outliers portrayed as the norm but now it as basic as maintaining employment. Let's face it teachers have been marginalized and leveraged to such a degree that I am not sure that the profession can even continue to exist much longer. Wonder who these mudslingers will then blame when there isn't anyone in the classroom anymore to point as being the cause?

Anonymous said...

I would like to propose that everyone in this educational spiral is trying to fight a battle over something which doesn't really appear to exist any longer and they are doing so using positions, perceptions and tools that our suited for values which probably don't function in the same manner.

We all roll our eyes and look down our pedagogical noses at a teacher who might still employ a basal reader or this thing called chalk. We recognize that these instructional techniques/tools are not contemporary. New technology, new standards, new roles, etc in our field are supposed to be aligning with "21st century learners" becoming "global citizens". I even get to read about how kids' brains function differently now than a generation ago as though technology has flipped an uber evolutionary switch in their heads. That may be true but I am not so sure it hasn't also flipped a few other brain breakers off.

Regardless, in working with students for the last couple of decades, I have come to believe that many don't want to have or cultivate these skills of tomorrow...,or at least not in the way we formally wish to indoctrinate them through the existing educational system which we continue to tinker without much success.

Could it be that our inability to make students value or accept (dare I say learn) those skills and knowledge bases which we have identified for them as being critical to their success, has resulted in greater desperation and urgency to seek our own validation in our self proclaimed goals and ideals? Not to victimize but it would appear that observation would align with our growing dissatisfaction with educators who are caught between experts' 21st Century achievement goals and students who either don't share or are incapable of understanding the educational standards' significance.

Let's take writing for example, Latin, quill pins and "thou" have met their demise as have the selectric, cursive writing and the grammar book. As an educator and parent, I can seen how my students' and children's writing has gotten worse over the years, though they probably communicate textually much more than I ever did at their age through texting, emails, facebook, twitter, etc. They value and engage in written communication constantly (though I sometime question the value of the content) and do so effectively enough to meet their needs.

My point is that just like academics were once the custodians of knowledge through their own minds and the books we controlled in the libraries and schools, that is no longer the case with the limitless electronic resources which are public domain for all to use or misuse. We can't tell kids they must ignore electronic resources and instead use a volume from the old encyclopedias in the library anymore (we even recognize and accept that as advantageous to our and their ends - we changed). Perhaps writing skills will see similar changes as students and the general public take command of what is and isn't acceptable practice in uses and codes instead of formal education trying to impose that on them.

As I initially noted, I think that education is increasingly moving away from the deliver (educator) being the determining factor in what is and isn't important curriculum as students and non -professional public come to determine what conventions are acceptable, what is valued and what significant to know.

I see agencies, governments and leaders trying to control and measure what educators should be teaching as an increasingly hopeless endeavor when students seem to be becoming the determining agent for knowledge and skills aquisition and not some sort of state or national standard for all.