Why JJ Really Still Isn’t “Liberal” or a “Democrat”

8 04 2009

I just watched the new Ed Show on MSNBC, all about card check as the most important liberty in 40 years, oops, I mean the “Employee Free Choice Act” and how it’s Wall Street GREED that keeps the evil employers opposing it.

I have two words for anyone peddling that crap: Pat Tornillo. Godfather-like head of the teacher union in my large state for four decades, living large as he systematically ripped everybody off including all the other school districts really trying to work for school funding and teacher salaries, as he moaned and wailed and strongarmed and conspired in the name of the poor working teachers and the little schoolkids, meanwhile ripping us ALL off, including not just the poor working teachers but the schoolkids — and the taxpayers.

He might as well have been Bernie Madoff.

So maybe my two words should be: Bernie Madoff? Or: Power corrupts. Or as this newspaper story suggests, how about the words “Fidel Castro”!

The godfather

Tornillo’s critics – and he has many – describe him as ego-driven, antagonistic and destructive to public education. He has been called Fidel Castro, the godfather and president for life.

But one of the things raising hackles now is timing. According to the Miami Herald, which has outlined his alleged offenses in considerable detail, Tornillo’s spending became particularly egregious even as teachers were facing pay cuts or trying to avoid layoffs.

During a recent 30-month period, Tornillo and his wife charged an estimated $350,000 to the United Teachers of Dade, reported the Herald, which said it inspected Tornillo’s credit card statements, union checks and financial records.

The spree came on top of the $243,000 salary Tornillo received annually as union president. He is now on unpaid suspension.

Gary Landry, who was hired by Tornillo to work for the state union, said he questioned the spending and told Tornillo it was raising eyebrows.

“There is so much extravagance and waste,” said Landry, who now works for the James Madison Institute, a conservative think tank in Tallahassee. “I always thought it was wrong. If I were a teacher paying dues I would say, “Why do I support this?’ ”

Tornillo’s friends point to his work on behalf of Florida teachers.

I can assure you my two words for the virtues of union “representation” sure aren’t gonna be “card check” or “free choice.” That’s what keeps me out of the Democratic party and the company of labor-pandering liberals, just so you know, since I’ve recently been so vocal about what keeps me out of the company of ignorant, bible-thumping, gun-waving cult retrogenerate Republican conservatives like Sarah Palin.

We have GOT to do better on all sides, than this rhetorical garbage!

But those who expected a cautionary tale of hubris and mishandling of union dues were disappointed. The criminals were not mentioned by name, nor their crimes detailed, though Mark Richard did call them “misguided” and “those who had lost their way.” Richard’s presentation was particularly jarring, since he has been routinely lauded in the Miami and national media for restoring trust in UTD, trimming the fat and changing the way of doing business (actions that haven’t been so apparent at WTU).

Richard complained about the press coverage of the scandal. “They love to cover the negative, and you have to scratch for the positive,” he said.

He boasted of membership gains, and the renewed activism and enthusiasm of UTD building stewards, but in a way that displayed contempt for the people he is trying to recruit. The UTD local activists, he said, “chase the non-members down for the scabs that they are.”

[Free choice?? Give me an effing break . . .]

Richard finished with a long, loud rant against the No Child Left Behind Act, union opponents and President Bush, concluding with “Let’s kick his ass out of the White House!” for which he received a standing ovation.

It was a speech that would have made Pat Tornillo proud.




22 responses

8 04 2009
Daryl Cobranchi


I’m not sure I understand why a corrupt union official would cause you to oppose EFCA. I’ve worked at a union site as “supervision.” We bent, folded, and mutilated the law in order to keep a national union out. No repercussions, of course.

8 04 2009

It’s not just this one horribly corrupt union boss, although he tainted my entire education and career, starting when I was in junior high school and he orchestrated my teachers (who I loved) walking out on me. I took it pretty personally! 🙂

8 04 2009

It’s because of the majority-rule, you’re represented by the union whether you want to be or not, as long as 50% plus one vote of your “fellows” check it off — I’m definitely not saying management should decide for labor instead. I want real choice, where individuals have the rights in the workplace that unions used to claim as THEIR purview.
I feel like liberal-progressives would consider the individual much more than unions do, and make room for us true individuals . . . because I don’t want the corrupt manager OR the corrupt union boss in charge of me! (Much less my kids.)

8 04 2009

Imagine Democrats had a platform that all women of reproductive age would vote and the majority would decide whether or not I could, or couldn’t, reproduce. And under what terms, with what care. For the greater good. . . choice? Nah.

9 04 2009

We snuffle out the only Arabic restaurant in this mall, and he says everything you are banned – under threat of prison – from saying in Dubai. Mohammed tells me he was born in Dubai to a fisherman father who taught him one enduring lesson: Never follow the herd. Think for yourself.

(Cock of the snook to COD for the story)

9 04 2009
Nance Confer

I don’t get the analogy, JJ.

The hypothetical union would not be interested in whether or not you give birth. But if you were giving birth, they would have negotiated healthcare for you.

Not that that excuses corruption in unions any more than corruption anywhere should be excused.


9 04 2009
Daryl Cobranchi

It’s because of the majority-rule, you’re represented by the union whether you want to be or not, as long as 50% plus one vote of your “fellows” check it off …

And how is that any different than the current election process? What EFCA will do is prevent employers from manipulating the election process. Right now, it’s illegal but there is no real penalty for violating the law. EFCA will fix that, too.

9 04 2009

Okay, hmmm, maybe HSLDA makes a not-so-hypothetical analogy for us thinking homeschoolers.

Suppose HSLDA honchos who spread around a lot of campaign cash during the Bush years got paid back with Congressional authority to run a binding, politically-financed, politically motivated blitz of all of us home education families, to become the national union of home education and “negotiate” with authorities how we will or will not homeschool. Let’s say HSLDA lawyer muscle is able to produce card checks from 50% plus one of all homeschoolers, and because they’re the biggest and baddest union — oops, I mean “education association” — with the best bought-and-paid-for political connections and the purest ideology, of course they prevail and no one can challenge their “legitimacy” to represent me. They have just become government imo, my rulers. Unconstitutionally in my view.

It’s not just corruption but the whole model I think is wrong, of labor as one big lump of human capital and management as kings to rebel against, when the way America actually has played out in my lifetime, under the unfettered capitalism model, has been monied “managers” and monied “unions” both acting like rival kings fighting to control the serfs and all their lands and wealth. Are workers nothing more than a collective of human capital each side wants to exploit, so they can amass THEIR individual power and pay themselves handsomely, as we herded masses take the real risks, foot the bill for both sides and do the actual work? (Kinda like the two major parties controlling everything including their endless fight against each other, while we keep paying and paying and do whatever they decide between themselves we must.)

I guess I wouldn’t mind so much if I could buy into the hype about how it empowers the individual worker.

I dearly hoped Obama meant a new pragmatic politics built on breaking free from the bad old days, in which we’d stop fighting the old fights and trying so hard to choose sides between the old dysfunctional logic-of-failure institutions that strain and struggle against each other, and give us only the illusion of progress instead of actually moving forward to more enlightened, more progressive models.

9 04 2009

Daryl, I agree! — no side of any issue public or private should be “manipulating the election process” for any sort of representation.

I’ve been involved in adversarial management-labor “collective bargaining” in public education. Neither side is wrong but the whole model is wrong, or at least obsolete, can’t be fixed without changing the whole model and how we think of it; there shouldn’t BE sides. So card check imo, is just another battle in a war we shouldn’t be fighting. We should be making peace.

9 04 2009
Daryl Cobranchi

But a peace accord must be negotiated between equals. Otherwise, it’s known as surrender talks. And right now mgmt has all the power and labor none. EFCA is aimed to balance the scales a bit.

When I was in mgmt I toed the company line. No more.

9 04 2009

Well, that’s true. 🙂
As long as we’re in the war model anyway.

Please understand I’m not against the act itself particularly, any more than I’m ever actively against all the reform stuff people try to legislate to improve public schools. You know, more nurses or higher certification standards or smaller ratios or requiring algebra, same-sex classes or whatever. It’s just that I KNOW those specific battles no matter which side muscles its solution through, aren’t going to make the model better, just maybe shift the ground we’re fighting over a little one way or the other.

Ending corporal punishment in schools might be a good example. I certainly believe that needs to happen and I am outspoken on that side. But I wouldn’t say it’s the most important reform or freedom in 40 years and stake all my activism on it, because even if I “win” that battle, kids are still in an authoritarian school environment and society isn’t getting what we need or want for all our education investment. Does that make sense?

Put it this way — if I got three big wishes from the new administration, or even one, card check wouldn’t cross my mind for a second! 😀

Maybe liberal Dems mostly see it my way too, aren’t as radical on this as they sound, and I take the party rhetoric too literally? But collective bargaining isn’t the answer to every problem any more than the bible is imo — to me unionized labor is to the Dems what the RR is to the GOP, so we non-ideologues need to be working out ways to get the one-issue hammers past their civil war and into an Obama-worthy peace . . .

9 04 2009
Nance Confer

Right, I don’t think the rhetoric on either side should be taken too literally.

And, no, this wouldn’t be on my top 3 list either. But I haven’t opted to work in a factory. I am not at the mercy of a giant corporation. Maybe if I did stand on a factory line, or in a classroom, I’d like to have some union muscle on my side. To even the fight up, as Daryl suggests.

Because it is a fight. We aren’t socialists yet. We still have Big Business vs. Labor/Big Labor.

And we have unions like those representing new-to-me union workers — the lower-paid service industry workers. The ones who may be fighting for just a living wage, not anything lofty like healthcare.

And if I were a hotel maid, I’d like to be able to have a vote about having a union — without anyone bullying me. Then I’d like to have my union stick up for me. That’s the whole point of unions — to give some clout to the little guy’s voice.

And, yes, it’s too bad it’s ugly and corrupt and not as high-brow as we might hope everyone would be in this new era. But a living wage is necessary in the meantime.


9 04 2009

Daryl, what do you think of this then, instead of card check? Everybody gets a real vote — isn’t that what has been objected to by the unions as unworkable because the OTHER side is too often corrupt?

“I’d like to be able to have a vote about having a union — without anyone bullying me.”

9 04 2009

Wonder if resolving the illegal immigration dilemma, will make a lot of workplaces more humane with or without card check union representation?

9 04 2009

Nance, I don’t know about the factories, you’re right. But I do know a good bit about what union muscle has and hasn’t done to make classrooms more humane places for teachers and kids, and that taxpayers could be proud of. If anything they are needed less in school than what the last 40 years has been like, not more.

Unless hmmm — if there’s one we could vote on to represent the kids directly and families that really need public education? Maybe Rob Reich could run it and tell the Bachmanns and other book-banning, science-banning conservative school board types to take a flying leap! (He needs to make his ethical servility mark and a public schoolkids’ union is MUCH better than regulating home education parents and kids, this could be interesting . . .)

9 04 2009

JJ, I agree with everything that you’ve said on this. Historiclly, unions have served an important purpose. In newly unionized industries they have just begun their fight. The problem, in my mind, has really been the failure of the government to properly regulate union activity. Protection needs to be given to what I like to call “first generation rights”. In my mind, until everybody is up to the same level of rights, the state can’t be fretting over “luxury rights” at the expense of those who aren’t even receiving the most basic protection.

As for teachers, I really think that are taken advantage of by their unions. Collectively, the teachers’ unions are the largest & wealthiest lobby in the country. Where does most of that money go? The same place that most of federal school money goes: high paid administrators.

Every teacher knows that the only way to make any real money is to get into administration. And yet we pour more and more money in to create more and more administrators. It is ridiculous. Teachers don’t need more administrators, they need more money and more resources for their classrooms. But they never seem to see it, no matter how much is thrown their way. It always seems to just get stopped up somehow.

I’m sorry if I’m sounding disjointed here. It’s late and I tend to word vomit at this hour. 🙂

10 04 2009

Well, thanks TMQ — I think! But we may not agree quite so completely. Help me unpack these ideas and run them through the x-ray screener to see what they’re really made of.

Education administration is no path to riches. The only payoff you can hope for whether teaching or managing in schools, is a decent pension after 30 years, like other relatively low-paid public employees such as firefighters, police and military (except THEY all get to retire at 20 years, and with a higher salary percent in annual income than teachers earn.) Administrators on average do make somewhat higher salaries than when they were teaching fulltime, but not by obscene Wall Street multipliers, and not because they start siphoning off school funding they’ve cheated taxpayers out of (unless an individual is corrupt, whether in union management or school management, see above.)

At least top administrators still work in the schools and are responsible to the public and unbelievably regulated; top union officials do not and are not. They work for their private interest group only — though it looks more like they are bossing, not serving — and with relatively little accountability or transparency or responsibility or regulation, basically profiting by fighting AGAINST better education in public schools and what’s best for children and families, because that’s not who they serve or what they are rewarded for delivering!

Like figuring out the compensation crisis among Wall Street CEOs, it pays us to be able to see clearly, exactly who is responsible to whom and who is really paying and profiting.

Also, remember school administrators almost always were qualified teachers first, sometimes they were union members themselves and know all about it (both the rhetorical facade and the hardball reality.) Then they overlay teaching with advanced degrees, broadened experiences and management skill sets. (Which imo is why top school administrators shouldn’t be elected rather than hired professionally by elected officials in an authentic public search process, and DEFINITELY why city mayors or big businessmen without school expertise, shouldn’t sweep in to take over schools as a personally enriching political power grab.)

I was raised by two professional parents, each of whom was both dedicated teacher AND administrator in different education fields at different levels. Many of my best adult friends were and are, teachers and administrators and education lobbyists, even a union lobbyist or two but none on any path to riches nor engaging in any form of public plundering and piracy. 😉

10 04 2009

It has been my experience that no two people agree completely on all issues. In our pluralistic society, I think it is an impossibility, in fact. I am the daughter of a teacher. My mother wouldn’t join the teacher’s union and was ostracized at her workplace for not doing so.

Regarding your statements concerning earning real money. Of course a teacher or any other public servant professional is not going to earn as much. Their earnings are capped because they are not in a profit driven industry. The tradeoff is job security. It follows that the higher the financial risk, the higher the payoff. That is why we are in this financial mess in the first place. Insitutions [like pension funds] were buying high risk assets [subprime loans] and trading them on the market to make money faster. Investment banking is a high risk job, not in the sense that my husband the Marine is in a high risk job, but it’s risky because nobody can completely predict the market.

10 04 2009

Daryl, Nance and I all live in southern, so-called “right-to-work” states. Historically conservative but trending away from the Rs toward moderate progressive politics imo. Probably that colors our common experience, communities and therefore personal politics and views.

Also my dad was a military officer, then Ph.D. management and business ethics professor and textbook author; my mom wound up on the student side, guidance, psychology, residence hall management — all most certainly affecting my views. 🙂

13 04 2009

I agree with Krugman on many things but here he is either blindly or disingenuously partisan rather than thoughtfully academic, misses the boat altogether by leaving out a third of the population!

And it’s the best part! 😉

Republicans have become embarrassing to watch. And it doesn’t feel right to make fun of crazy people. Better, perhaps, to focus on the real policy debates, which are all among Democrats.

. . . And they could return to power if the Democrats stumble. So it behooves us to look closely at the state of what is, after all, one of our nation’s two great political parties.

There are approximately THREE roughly proportional political forces in this nation’s policy debates, not two — and hallelujah, because imo the third group is the most pragmatic and rational and most constructively engaged of all, my group, the non- or post-partisan policy thinkers.

13 04 2009

Is America still playing in the majors, in it to win it?

It’s not which label we wear and brand we buy, but why we buy into it and whether it helps make things better or worse.

The worst reason screws up both the individual and society — buying into the brand or label to fill that empty, inadequate place inside and feel part of something more important and powerful than oneself.

The best reason is better for both the individual and society imo — intelligent searching for substance and thinking critically for ourselves before designing and adopting any solution and/or affiliating with any brand:

Wonder Bread, Twinkies and My Father’s Oldsmobiles

What “Earning It” Means in America

I recommend . . . broadening . . . education on this issue and starting to “reconcile” our polarized politics in favor of greater humanity and compassion for all life.

Of course “independents” aren’t automatically right-reason and pragmatic policy shoppers. They can be wacko wrong-reason extremists, too:

The Ron Paul candidacy was an extreme example of outsider politics on the left and right merging. . .retreats from the mainstream that traveled in opposite directions but were parallel in substance. . .
Both groups were and are defined primarily by an unshakable belief in the inhumanity of their enemies on the other side. . .

He says both belief poles are off the rational reservation deep into magical thinking and conspiracy theories, can’t even agree on a common set of facts to debate, distrust the news media even more than their own elected government, and basically elections have become simply “a forum for organizing the hatreds of the population.

13 04 2009
Why JJ Is Still on Verge of Being a Liberal Democratic « Cocking A Snook!

[…] JJ Is Still on Verge of Being a Liberal Democratic 13 04 2009 Last week I wrote how unionized labor, especially teacher unions, kept me from it. But like CS Lewis converting to Christianity as a middle-aged adult, it is drawing me in […]

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