Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Barbara's Version Of Democracy

Barbara E. Kerr
Barbara Kerr is the President of the California Teachers Association. As is the case with most public school teachers in California, the EdWonk is forced to pay dues to this Association, as well as two others. (The EdWonk prefers to term them as legalized protection rackets.) Because of the "closed shop" system, dues will be withheld regardless of whether or not a person chooses to belong to C.T.A. or not. And as has been stated before, the dues that must be paid to these people are substantial.

What bothers a large number of California educators is the fact that this syndicate is so rigidly anti-democratic. Members never get to vote for even a single C.T.A. officer. We are never asked our opinion before the association endorses (almost always Democratic) candidates for office. The excuse why individuals cannot vote has always been that there are too many members, too many local chapters.

The Association continues to ignore such innovations as secure computerized/telephone voting.

Nor are members allowed any oversight regarding the huge amount of dues money collected by the leadership of C.T.A.

As an aside, if we accept C.T.A.s own figures, we know that there are some 355,000 members. Each is required to pay $644.00 per annum. If we multiply these figures, that equals a staggering $228,620,000 per year. That sum is more than a quarter of a billion dollars. As one can see, this money will pay for large number of expense accounts, perks, parties, and beautifully furnished office space. Matter of fact, the C.T.A. headquarters is located in tony Burlingame, which is near San Francisco.

The joke is that in one of its latest publications, the C.T.A. loudly proclaims itself as a "rigorously democratic" organization. The sadder joke is that as "forced contributers" we cannot do anything to control this syndicate's spendthrift habits; there exists no mechanism for having a meaningful "say" in how our money is spent.

On paper, the organization has a cumbersome system of boards and annual delegate conventions. In practice, these bodies are merely rubber stamps. There are no contested elections, as a "slate" of "recommended" candidates is presented by an appointed nominating committee and is duly rubber stamped by the assembly. Like most unions, the C.T.A. is for and of, "insiders."

As with industrial unions such as the Teamsters, the President of C.T.A. wields enormous power.

Dissent is never afforded a "place at the table." Only those that have acceptable viewpoints (to the entrenched leadership clique) are ever appointed to any Association post.

Ms. Kerr, if she were so inclined, is in a position to actually do something that would strengthen her organization. She should lead an effort to reform this sadly outdated and anti-democratic group. Even though she is a product of a closed process of "let's appoint our buddies", she could, as Mikhail Gorbachev did for the Soviet Union, become a hero by helping to change the system for the better. By actually fostering greater participation in her organization, Ms. Kerr would make her union much stronger. In order to get more power; it is often necessary to give some of it away.....

She should allow (and encourage) some new kids to play in the sandbox.

But it is not to be. With an annual income of over a quarter of a billion dollars, no group of insiders like the C.T.A. hierarchy is ever going to be willing to share the responsibility that goes with having discretionary control of so much cash. A quarter of a billion dollars buys a lot of sand. And the sandbox will continue to be restricted to only a few privileged kids.