Teachers' Union to Play "Thug" Card?

California’s most powerful public employee union, the California Teachers Association (CTA), has budgeted $1 million for a May campaign to browbeat and coerce lawmakers and taxpayers into providing more money, through higher taxes, for teachers.

The action items proposed by the CTA range from the silly -- convincing the Ben and Jerry’s ice cream company to add a labor-union flavor to their line -- to the outright threatening -- demonstrations that could create major traffic jams in towns and cities.

Apparently, the union representing the second highest paid teachers in the nation – New York pays several hundred dollars a year more – thinks nothing of creating potentially dangerous traffic hazards and making thousands of those who still have jobs in California, late for work.

In case you are not caught up in one of their traffic jams, the teachers’ union has another way to reach into your life. An activity being considered is having teachers make phone calls to parents to tell them how their child is doing and then talk about the state budget cuts and inviting them to attend rallies. Is it possible that your response to this call could have an influence on the grade your child receives? Ya think?

Some of the activities the CTA is suggesting are fair game. Protesting in front of a lawmaker’s office is in the best tradition of freedom of speech and petition, but the union would take it a step further by following officials around all day, which amounts to stalking and creates security concerns.

And the teachers union would like to turn fire/earthquake drills into budget response drills involving students and the community, putting the priorities of government workers ahead of the safety of our children.

However, using our children as human shields – we’ve all heard the expression, “It’s for the children!” – is nothing new for CTA. This is an organization that spends millions of dollars advertising “every child deserves a chance” which should actually be translated as “every teacher, even bad ones, deserves the highest pay and benefits in the nation and, of course, iron clad job security.” Clearly, this is not about the students.

Al Shanker, the former head of the American Federation of Teachers, a large national labor organization, capsulated CTA’s approach best when he said, “When school children start paying union dues, that 's when I'll start representing the interests of school children.”

Of course there are thousands of individual teachers who are dedicated to the welfare of their students. These deserve encouragement and support. The problem is that the CTA, which is nothing more than a militant labor union, uses our concern for our children and appreciation for those who educate them, as the focal point of their campaign to wring more and more from already beleaguered taxpayers. The union ignores the fact that the reason government has less money for schools and teachers is that taxpayers have less, much less.

California voters are clearly getting tired of CTA’s strong arm tactics. Although CTA was a big booster of Schwarzenegger’s Proposition 1A (they ran several ads on TV showing children in the classroom) voters rejected the tax extensions in May of 2009 by a 2-1 margin. Consistent with the nationwide trend, union threats are ringing increasingly more hollow.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association -– California's largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers' rights.