Why this is life and death for the unions

In reading about the Wisconsin stand-off, I ran across this thread at Newsbusters . The last comment is so important, it deserves a post, I think. I can’t verify this story but I have spent some time with union health plan administrators.

Would someone please note that Unions make the great lion’s share of their $ from negotiating “benefits”, not salaries… or collection of dues.

This is why the decoupling of the Salaries and Benefits is so important to Unions in Wisconsin. And why the Union’s have countered the way they have. They’ll give up Salary and Jobs for Teachers in a second, but they will fight to death for the Benefit negotiation position. In another life as an executive in CA, I used to do administration for two Teamster’s “Health and Welfare” benefit packages. Do your research, but you’ll find I’m correct about motivation of Unions. I also believe that the amount of money kept by Unions will be very interesting to both your viewers, and the tax payers of the US of A. The way it works is that the Unions negotiate with the “Employer” regarding how much money per member/per month they will need to support the benefit options required in Union contract. In the case of WI, they negotiate with each of the 77 counties. Then the Unions negotiate the terms of benefits with “providers”/Ins Co’s, etc. They make the lion’s share of their money off of what is called the “breakage” created by Employees choosing between plan options, and the administration of the programs.

Let me explain with an example: A Union begins by negotiating with the Employer/State. They’ll claim their buying leverage will afford Employer significant savings. They’ll end up with a 3-tiered cost structure which allows the Union a profit even with the highest benefit option available as Union already has a very good idea about what Providers will be charging. But it gets even more lucrative for Unions at this point. Let’s say high-end Blue Cross PPO coverage costs $400 for the Family tier. What a Union will do is require $425 from Employer, plus a loaded in admin fee, as a charge for all Families in the employer group. So far, so fair? But, the Union will also offer a few other plans for Employees to choose from. The Union will also have developed relationships with a few cheaper HMO plans, and lesser PPO benefit structure plans that charge, as an example, $325 and $375, respectively.

At an Open House, employees will choose what fits their needs and the Union is in line for the “breakage”. The left over breakage is then, to my experience, placed in a fund where only the Union has the checkbook. Cars, Vacations and Condo’s, oh my. The Union also makes a “commission” off of things like Pre Legal, Dental and Term Life. As another profit source, the Union also leans on the Administrator for favors I’d rather not list, but usually involving idiocy like buying thousands of dollars of “raffle tickets” and leasing cars for the Union’s Business Agents, not entirely above board. Of course, I am relating my experience, and what little I know of others who also did Union administration. I’d expect any simple research by an actual reporter would open up a Pandora’s box of Slush in the Badger State.

Very revealing comment. This is why “benefits” is such a life and death issue for the unions.

Just say it! Teachers Unions are morally illegitimate

It’s nice to know that the rhetoric I’ve been using on my website for about 6 years now, which some called “extreme,” has gone mainstream.

The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page editors are dipping their toes in the water of truth. They ought to dive in head first, and start rescuing children.

Hating ‘Superman’

The new film “Waiting for ‘Superman’” is getting good reviews for its portrayal of children seeking alternatives to dreadful public schools, and to judge by the film’s opponents it is having an impact.

Witness the scene on a recent Friday night in front of a Loews multiplex in New York City, where some 50 protestors blasted the film as propaganda for charter schools. “Klein, Rhee and Duncan better switch us jobs, so we can put an end to those hedge fund hogs,” went one of their anti-charter cheers, referring to school reform chancellors Joel Klein and Michelle Rhee and Education Secretary Arne Duncan. The odd complaint is that donors to charter schools include some hedge fund managers.

Or maybe not so odd. Teachers unions and the public school monopoly have long benefitted from wielding a moral trump card. They claimed to care for children, and caring was defined solely by how much taxpayers spent on schools.

That moral claim is being turned on its head as more Americans come to understand that teachers unions and the public bureaucracy are the main obstacles to reform. Movies such as “Waiting for ‘Superman’” and “The Lottery” are exposing this to the larger American public, leaving the monopolists to the hapless recourse of suggesting that reformers are merely the tools of hedge fund philanthropists.

Teacher’s unions are on the moral defensive because people have finally started to question their moral legitimacy. (welcome to the club) Teachers Unions have none, and, as a concept, they have no right to exist.

Every dime a teachers union extracts from a tax payer for pay, benefits, pensions, etc., is a dime that can’t be used to better educate a child. It’s so obvious that it’s been staring us in the face for decades.

Just as Reagan hastened the fall of the USSR by challenging their moral legitimacy (evil empire, ash heap of history), we must openly start telling our neighbors that teachers unions have no right to one iota of say in education. Their interests, and the interests of society are diametrically opposed.

You don’t negotiate with such an entity, you abolish it. It’s that simple. Get to work.

You want to teach? Compete in the open field of professionals and processes that can better educate our children.

Addressing SEIU/AFSCME talking points

Public Unions are taking well-deserved heat for their pension greed. If you look at all the pension articles, the comments are full of reasonable sounding folks trotting out the argument that the really bad examples of abusive pensions are “outliers.” They then tell you that the average benefit is “only $20,000/year.” It’s best to address this calmly, reasonably, and accurately. Here’s how.

Read more

Begin with the end in mind

I’m a bit of Covey Fan, at least some great stuff from his first book. Beginning with the end in mind, and keeping it in mind, is central to strategic thinking on policy and politics.

With that out of the way, I’ll tell you that one of the “ends” I’m working toward is the transformation (as opposed to the reform) of America’s education system.

I can easily defend the statement that America’s education system can’t be reformed in its present context. Taking that one step further, i would argue that even if it could be reformed, we shouldn’t want to.

I write all this because I just posted a comment to one of my favorite blogs, Brothers Judd. The post on that blog touted an article describing Obama’s “break” with the Teacher’s Unions. This is an interesting development, and there is much more, and much less, than meets the eye.

The comment I posted is below.

This is my take, and I think I’ll be proven right. Obama & Co. know that the existing system is unsustainable, particularly for the urban schools. They are creatures of the Union, but know that Unionism is the problem. Hence their attempt to “fix” the system using half-measures like “turnaround models” and charters.

This is akin to “glasnost” and “perestroika.” Obama thinks he can loosen the leash, maintain control, and then re-unionize charters when results improve. This brings to mind 2 important things for true reformers to remember.

1. Reforms need to lead to the permanent removal of unionization from education, so we need to work toward the collapse of the union system (USSR), and not its “reform.”

2. All this talk of Obama truly understanding the problem should be ignored. Whatever his personal motivation to succeed, in his heart of hearts, he is an unreconstructed leftist who believes everything William Ayers believes about schooling.

He’s Gramsci to the core. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antonio_Gramsci

Just remember, like Katrina, if every government school in the US fell to rubble tomorrow, we would see a flourishing of education that would surprise the most Pollyanna optimist. To that end, all half measures should be designed to destroy the current system, not to save it.

US Government Education Complex = USSR
Obama = Gorbachev

In my view, , the Union-dominated education system will appear strong, like the USSR, right up to the moment they collapse. Once they collapse, Unions must be driven from education.

The most important policy needed to bring that about is the rapid charterizaton of existing schools, combined with the majority of the education dollar following children to those schools.

If you don’t put a stake through their heart, salt and garlic the coffin, and scatter the ashes, they will come back and fix on your neck yet again.