Friday, July 13, 2018

Right-Wing Money Is Greasing the Anti-Teachers Union Skids

Posted By on Fri, Jul 13, 2018 at 3:06 PM

Teachers, here's a pop quiz. How will you receive information trying to convince you to drop ties with the teachers union? (a) Email. (b) Snail mail. (c) Phone call. (d) Knock on your door. The correct answer is (e) Any or all of the above.

The Public School Wrecking Crew scored a huge win when the Supreme Court decided public-employee unions cannot make nonmembers contribute to collective bargaining in its recent Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees decision. The ink was barely dry on the written arguments when right wing money began pouring into campaigns to persuade teachers to walk away from their unions.
Right-leaning think tanks and advocacy organizations have placed anti-union ads on Google and social media and sent targeted emails to teachers across the country. Some plan to go door to door to reach educators during the summer.
One group is trying to uses states' open records laws to get the email addresses of union members to make targeting even easier.

Two groups spearheading the campaign are The Mackinac Center and The Freedom Foundation. Both have strong libertarian, "free market" leanings. That puts them in the same ideological camp, and funding stream, as UA's "Freedom Center," which created the high school course, Philosophy 101: Ethics, Economy, and Entrepreneurship, currently on hold in TUSD, though it's still being taught in other local school districts as well as charter and private schools. (To give you the complete buzz word, dog whistle experience, the center's full name is the Center for the Philosophy of Freedom. It is housed in the recently created Department of Political Economy & Moral Science.)

Let's look at the two groups funding the anti-union push.

First, the Mackinac Center. Based in Michigan, it's one of the largest state-level "think tanks" in the country. It receives direct and indirect funding from the Koch brothers, making it a sucker on the Kochtopus, the gigantic, many-tentacled denizen of the Dark Money deep. It has also received $355,000 from the Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation and other conservative donors. Among the causes it supports are: Right to work legislation (Janus was a huge win); Opposition to environmental policies and regulations; Denial of climate change; Opposition to renewable energy; Privatizing prisons; and Privatizing education.

The Mackinac Center has a strong connection to the Flint, Michigan, water contamination which increased the lead level in the city's water supply, causing serious health, educational and psychological problems for the city's children which will last the rest of their lives, as well as the rest of the citizenry. The Mackinac Center wrote the legislation adopted by Michigan which created state-appointed emergency managers. When the state says a city is in financial distress, it appoints managers who have nearly total control over the cities. One of the emergency managers appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder oversaw the changes in Flint's water supply which resulted in lead leaching into the water which feeds into homes and businesses.

The Freedom Foundation is a libertarian think tank based in Washington state. Like the Mackinac Center, it has connections to the Koch network along with a number of other donors, including the Walton Family Foundation which I wrote about in a recent post. The Freedom Foundation's attacks on unions have been so unrelenting, it was given an award in 2017 by the State Policy Network for "Best Issue Campaign, Union Opt Out Campaign." It also stakes out positions against LGBT rights, Planned Parenthood, climate change science, and policies helping working families like minimum wage, paid sick days and funding for education.

The anti-teachers union campaign is up and running, fueled by a small group of billionaires who buy "free speech" by the tanker load, with no more strain on their pocketbooks than the rest of us buying an ice cream cone.

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