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Teachers Unions Staring Into Financial Abyss, Channeling Saul Alinsky

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Fresh on the heels of an exclusive report detailing a 7-day Caribbean cruise that National Education Association staffers are currently enjoying, Education Action Group has learned that dozens of teachers unions around the country are running out of money.

According to reports published by the National Staff Organization – a group made up of NEA and state affiliate union staffers:

“Fifteen states are considered to be financially distressed because of membership loss and their very survival is in jeopardy. And because of financial hardship, 41 state executives are on NEA’s payroll instead of being paid by their state. Two states—Indiana and South Carolina—remain under an NEA trusteeship.”

NSO President Chuck Agerstrand called it a lesson in “trickle-down economics.”

Or maybe it’s just “trickle-down karma.” It’s ironic that the very same financial problems unions have created for government schools – through collectively bargained contracts that give annual, automatic pay raises and world class benefits – are now appearing in their own organizations.

The teacher unions’ laser-like focus on left wing politics means that state legislatures – many of which are currently controlled by Tea Party Republicans – have no incentive to help rescue them.

The unions’ chickens have come home to roost, as the saying goes.

What’s the solution? Creating a “culture of organizing,” according to the NSO, which wants to boost the number of dues payers and thus soothe the financial problems. So prior to the 7-day Caribbean cruise, staffers participated in a three-day retreat to learn how to better organize.

The staffers studied organizing theory charts and read quotes from Saul Alinsky. The National Education Association is now teaching an organizing method the Service Employees International Union has been using as well: “Constant Organizing Goals.”

In a 2010 PowerPoint document, SEIU described the COG method this way:

“[It] requires unions to build public relationships involving a quid pro quo interchange driven by self-interest and guaranteed by mutual accountability.”

This underscores the notion that the union’s strategy is to meet its needs first and not seek what is in the best interest of students or taxpayers.

The NEA’s bargaining strategy method has these four steps:

1. Educate

2. Agitate

3. Escalate

4. Evaluate

The further into the process, the theory goes, the more power is built. But the power, of course, is for high salaries, better benefits, and fewer responsibilities. That’s great for the adults, but doesn’t do much for the students.

But after all – it’s not about the students. Somebody has to bail water out of the sinking union boat and it’s not going to be students. Teachers, grab a bucket.

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