Union Abuse of the Public Payroll System

Several times now, public employee unions have sued my organization (and me personally) in an effort to stop me from placing on the ballot a measure that prohibits the use of the public payroll system to collect political money. Judging by the amount of the legal fees unions have expended trying to shut me down and the obscene amounts they have spent on media campaigns, this issue makes for a pretty high stakes game.

Over my years in politics, I have placed on the ballot (and passed) measures to lower taxes billions of dollars. I have placed on the ballot measures to require voter approval for tax and fee increases and measures to require that teachers be paid based on their job performance rather than their seniority. Once, I even placed on the ballot (and passed) a measure to rein in the excesses of the public employee retirement system, which is clearly a very hot issue.

None of those measures got me sued.

Public employee unions spent millions opposing all those measures and attacking my name and assassinating my character during the campaigns, but the only measures that got me sued and threatened with a stint in jail were the ones relating to the use of the public payroll system to collect political funds.

Obviously, there is something special about this issue. (I should say in the interest of full disclosure that although I was not personally sued over the public pension measure, my wife and children and I received several pretty nasty and graphic death threats over that one.)

I find it fascinating that you can cut taxes and tinker with the salaries and pensions of public employee union members, but when you do something that threatens the political clout of union leaders, they sue your pants off. This suggests to me that union leaders are a lot more interested in their own political clout than the interests of their members.

Notwithstanding all of the union legal threats, I have submitted to the Oregon Secretary of State what should be enough signatures to place on the 2008 Oregon ballot a measure that prohibits the use of any public resource to collect money that is used for a political purpose. This will be my third round with the unions on this issue.

In the two previous rounds, the public employee unions spent millions of dollars opposing this issue and in both cases they barely won, even though our side spent nothing or close to nothing defending the measures. This suggests that 2008 will be another expensive and nasty fight. But the haunting question remains: Why is this such a big issue to the unions? Why are they willing to ask a Portland judge to throw me in the hoosegow to stop me from merely qualifying this measure for the ballot?

Doesn’t it seem like the American thing to do to require government to remain neutral in elections? Stopping government from collecting political money for the benefit of just one side of the political debate only makes it a fairer fight. Right?

Besides, from a purely practical perspective, why should taxpayers allow their government to collect millions of dollars in campaign funds for the side of the debate that consistently tries to increase their tax burden and grow government spending?

In most states, public employee unions are the 800 pound gorilla of politics, especially the teachers unions. They are generally the largest donors to state legislative races and most local government and school board races. In states like Oregon, they literally control the process with union leaders and activists even staffing the governor’s office.

Most politicians, even the conservative ones, live in fear of the public employee unions, and usually for good reasons. If public employee unions decide to take you out, they have the money to flood the airwaves with nonstop attack ads and to fill your constituents’ mailboxes with direct mail attack pieces. In politics, that’s clout.

Public employee unions have that clout, however, because they cheat. First, they use the public payroll system to collect their political funds, which is a grossly unfair advantage; and second, unions take money from employees’ paychecks for politics without first obtaining the employee’s permission.

That’s it in a nutshell. If public employee unions had to play the game straight up, if they had to raise their political money the way the rest of us do, i.e., by collecting checks from willing donors, they would have only a fraction of the political money they currently have. That is precisely why union bosses will fight to the death to retain these advantages. They like the political power. They enjoy rubbing shoulders with powerful politicians who owe them because of all of the political donations they have made.

Think about this for a moment. Only about eight percent of Americans are members of unions and yet unions are among the most powerful forces in American politics. How could unions have such disproportionate power, if they didn’t have some kind of unfair advantage?

I am sure that union fanatics will bombard my email for saying this, but I know this to be true. Public employee unions are powerful only because they cheat. When states stop unions from taking money out of employees’ paychecks without first obtaining written permission or stop the use of the public payroll system for collecting political funds, union political donations drop by about 90 percent. In other words, when workers have the choice of not donating to union political coffers, they choose not to. End of argument.

Yes, I expect a war next Fall when my measure comes up for a vote. From liberal editorial boards to Democrat officeholders to the public employee unions, the entire political left in Oregon will attempt to skewer me. (Like they can find a place on my body not already having a skewer in it.) Nonetheless, this time, I think we will win. I think voters finally are willing to acknowledge that it is outside its proper role for government to collect campaign contributions for one side of the political debate.

It promises to be an interesting fight. Who knows, the teachers unions might even sue me a few more times. They’ve already blown close to $2 million on legal fees fighting me. Why stop now?

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Posted by at 06:00 | Posted in Measure 37 | 47 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • Jerry

    I would never say you are wrong, because you are absolutely, dead on right!

    I was a forced member of the union as a teacher in Oregon. They could not survive in a New York minute if they did not have forced membership (“fair share”) and forced payroll deductions. Let’s look at the facts:

    1. Teachers, as a group, are notoriously frugal. I know, having been one and worked with others, for 19 years. If teachers had to write a check each month for their union dues, almost all would simply not do so. I can guarantee this to be the absolute truth. This is why the unions will do anything and everything to keep the forced, automatic payroll deduction system – otherwise, they would lose millions and millions of dollars each year.

    2. No one has ever taken up my challenge to name one thing the teachers’ union has ever done in Oregon to help even one child. The reason is that this challenge can not be answered. The union in Oregon has never done anything that ever helped any students. The union is only about two issues. More money for less work is one. The other is keeping their power in the legislative and executive branches of state government so they can continue to force membership dues and get those forced dues collected for them for free and continue to lobby for socialist ideas, concepts, and candidates.

    3. The teachers’ union controls the state legislature and the executive branch of government in Oregon. Otherwise, they would not have been able to coerce the state into collecting their dues nor coerce the state into forcing everyone to pay those dues whether they belong to the union or not.

    4. Teachers are not overworked or over paid. This myth has been propagated by the union. It simply is not true. Is it a tough job sometimes? Sure, whose job isn’t? But is it horrible? Hardly. And the pay is just fine. Some might even say more than generous, especially if you take into account that teahers in Oregon only interact with the students for 172 – 175 days each year MAX and only for 5 – 6 hours MAX each day. This is the elephant in the room no one wants to talk about.

    5. There is not a high school in the state that actually has the contact time with students, on an annual basis, as required in the Oregon Revised Statutes. Not one. This is the other elephant in the room. Study halls have replaced classes, “prep” time is rampant and way, way too long, days and days of school are cancelled or shortened for “inservice” so teachers can figure out how to do their jobs (what other businesses close so they can figure out how to do what they are doing?), classes are cancelled for teacher-parent “conferences”, there are state-wide inservice days, holidays every month, a week here, two weeks there…etc, etc. There is not much teaching going on when you actually factor all this up. I challenge anyone who doubts me to follow a kid around for a full week – to each and every class, every day, and then let me know what you think. The wasted contact hours are EXTREME and EVERYONE from the state dept. of ed to the parents and administrators just ignores it.

    6. More money is not the answer. We are spending more and more each and every year on each and every kid, but with nothing to show for it. Declining test scores in most cases – holding steady in a few – not many at all going up.

    7. Teacher unions are not needed. Plain and simple. If they did not exist teachers would still teach, schools would still be open, and forced dues would not be collected to use promoting left-wing socialist agendas. We might also be able to pay good teachers more than poor teachers, teachers of advanced calculus more than teachers of “modern day cinema”, more to teachers who actually teach as substantiated by independent, third party testing (not some silly, poorly written tests that were prepared by teachers who do not know how to test), more to teachers who don’t clock watch and leave campus every day at 3:15 and arrive late every morning at 7:45.

    8. I was on the inside and a part of all this. Chose not to believe me, but there is no reason for me to lie. I have nothing to gain or lose. I am ashamed of the way Oregon “teaches” its students and am deeply ashamed of a teachers’ union that has never, in all of its existence, ever done anything to help even a single student.

    If the public knew what I know they would vote in a heartbeat to end the coerced membership and the coerced and taxpayer paid for collection of the union “dues”.

    Nothing about the whole situation is of any benefit to any student or parent in the state.

    The truth does get some people upset, doesn’t it??

    • Sybella

      Standing ovation for you

    • Patrick

      Jerry,

      I have two sons in the public school system and have spent many hours volunteering in their classrooms over the last several years. I have had experience in both my own education and my children’s with public and private schools. Yes, there is a significant difference between the two. The public school teachers I have worked with and known in that time have all been terrific people. However, and it is a big however, what I have found going on within the walls of our public classrooms has been highly frustrating and disturbing.

      Jerry, I cannot specifically corroborate from personal experience what you are saying about the unions and their inner workings but I have heard enough from other credible sources to believe what you say to be true. Not to mention, their actions alone seem to tell most of the story. I can, however, corroborate your comments about what goes on in the classroom and during the year. As noted above, it is not good.

      What I would like to know from you, as a former teacher and from any others is; if you were/are a part of this and did/do not agree, what did/do you do to try and change things? I don’t mean that to sound like a personal attack, it is not meant to be. It is meant to be a genuinely, sincere question that I would like to hear an insiders perspective on so that I and others can better understand this problem. I want to become a part of the solution and work toward positive change and solutions for our schools but I can’t effectively do that if the teachers either don’t understand what I am saying or don’t really want to see change themselves. There are many elements required to make our public schools better; the first and foremost component being the parents. But I don’t believe this problem is going to have any hope of change until the teachers stand up and say, “What is going on is wrong, there is a better way”.

      We seem to hear consistently of the problems as stated in Bill’s post and yours, yet the only thing that I ever hear the teachers doing is going on strike asking for more pay or stating that they wish things could be better but we are just so short on funding. I have heard this consistently my entire life.

      Never have I heard of a single teacher or group of teachers standing up and arguing for their students by challenging the institution and/or the union itself.

      Never have I heard a public school teacher say or allude to all of the following: “I want to make a difference in my student’s lives; I want to challenge their minds and get them to think deeply and critically; I want them to learn “how to learn” and come to love learning and exploring and challenging their own mind and the minds of others, and know that this is a life long trait which will lead to one of the highest forms of happiness they will ever find (spend some time thinking about that one); I don’t need more funds in my classroom or in-service days or meetings to discuss the meeting I just went to – what I really need is more time and less interruption; I don’t need little signs and posters around my school with words like “diversity”, “compassion”, “responsibility”, “fairness”, “self-discipline” or “tolerance” to help build my students confidence and character – because true confidence and character comes from actual challenge, learning and achievement.; I want everything I do with the limited time that I have with my students to have a purpose. If I can’t define what that purpose is, then I should not be doing it.”

      To me, that word – “purpose” – is the key one. Most of what I see going on has little to no “purpose” and thus… we get what we get.

      • davidg

        Patrick,

        The real solution you seek is the one that the education bureaucracy fears more than anything else: competition. Let parents choose to divert their public school dollars to the public or private school of their choice. Parents know when they are getting their moneys worth. Let parents choose where their dollars go. Competition would straighten up the education industry just like it does in any other industry. Results would matter.

        • Patrick

          David,

          Yes, I agree with you completely but that is a diiferent issue than the question I raised or at least the direction I was trying to go.

          There is a level above the teachers that exists who fights school choice and competition with every breath and dollar they have and I know there is a level of educators who also fight this. I do not agree with their stand or their arguments.

          My question was aimed to try and seek out those within the institution who do not agree with what is going on. I realize that by asking the question and having someone stand up who is currently teaching, would in essence be probable carrer suicide. I would submit that those that do, will be the real revolutionary men and women who will be the catalyst for this change.

          But there must be those inside who do disagree with what is going on and those, like Jerry, who are retired and perhaps somewhat protected by that and they need to have a voice and we need to hear from them, even if annonomously.

          My goal with my question and statements is two-fold: 1) get feed back from educators, 2) get people thinking about what the purpose of education is and to stop and ask – “what is really going on in my school and why are they doing that?” I really don’t believe there are enough parents or students out there asking “why?”, “What is the purpose?”

          • davidg

            I think I understand your question to be: how can public education be reformed within existing political parameters? I don’t think what you want could ever occur. The education monopoly has too much momentum within itself to allow any major internal reforms. As you say, those within it who challenge it face career suicide.

            I still think outside competition is the only answer to any kind of reform you hope to achieve. The education bureaucracy crushes internal dissent about its existence. Sizemore’s union dues proposal is like a first step: first weaken the unions financially, then the unions won’t have as much strength to fight the next big fight which would be to open up competition in education. I certainly understand and appreciate the one-step-at-a-time approach.

      • Jerry

        Here is what I did. I did not watch the clock. I did whatever the administration asked of me, even if it meant coming early, staying late, etc. I did not treat the students like minions – more like paying customers. I expected a lot and got a lot. I did not refer kids to the office for discipline – I called the parents and worked it out. I did more than what I was asked to do. I won county teacher of the year (PTA), and other awards along the way. At no time did I ever cooperate with the union, use them for any advice, or participate in any work stoppages, slowdowns, etc. I always made sure not to contribute any extra money to them, and when Reagan signed into the law the measure that prohibited unions from using coerced dues for political means I ALWAYS requested and received a refund of that portion of my dues. I am certain they cheated me, though, on that amount.

        In retrospect I should have petitioned for a religious exemption and given the money to the Boy Scouts.

        And, no, I was not silent, but on the other hand, I did not do much to change the system, either. I was too busy teaching.

        The union hot head teachers did not like me much…the adminstration, however, did. I was accused many times of being too comfortable in my job, too friendly to the administration, etc. But I did not, nor do I now, care about that at all.

        Believe me, if people even had an inkling of the rampant waste, the huge number of really poor teachers, the pathetically small number of actual instruction hours, the horrible stands the union takes, etc., etc. they would be outraged. The problem seems to be that no one really wants to know. It is not hard to find out, though. Just visit your local public school and spend one full week, all day, every day. They won’t like it, by the way, but they can’t stop you.

        PS – in my last position I had over 40 parents volunteer with me each week, so nothing I did could ever be hidden. Most teachers don’t want parent volunteers anywhere near them, as then the parents would actually know first hand what is going on in the classroom.

        I am glad you volunteer. So few ever do….

        • Patrick

          Jerry,

          Thank you for your comments and for being a principled person and dedicated teacher. I am sure that many students who were in your classes are better off for being there.

          My experience in being in the classroom and observing what goes on mirrors your comments exactly regarding the waste of time and poor use of resources. And you are right, all one has to do is spend a week and you can begin to see it.

          I cannot speak for what happens in all districts, just the one that my kids are in. My experience with the number of parent volunteers has been very good. There is and has always been a large number, generally a regular group, who spend a lot of time in the school doing any number of things. So far this has been at the elementary level. I have one child now in Junior High and of course at that age the last thing they want is to have their parents around and, quite frankly, parents should not be hanging around. There is far to much helicoptering going on as it is.

          I am also not convinced that schools need a large number or perhaps any number of volunteers other than for help with special projects or events. There is a significant difference between being a volunteer parent and being an involved parent.

          One of the draw backs that I have seen in having the parent volunteers, is that these parents often end up doing things that the teachers should be doing. I have spent many hours in the school for some very specific reasons. I have found that I have had to adjust my volunteering and be specific with the teachers so that I can make sure the time I do spend is meaningful and productive.

          But given the fact that so many parents are spending time in the classrooms and on filed trips, it is amazing to me that they don’t speak up. Many praise the school and what is going on and even more are willing to contribute ever larger quantities of money.

          More and more I feel like a fish out of water while at the school and find myself at a loss for words when another parent asks me, “what do you think of so and so?” and “Don’t you think this is great?” Well, actually no, I don’t think it is all so great.

          I can’t be the only one who sees what I see. But you are right, it is as if no one really wants to see. What worries me more is that I am not sure many would actually understand even if they did see it. That is a bit of a harsh statement to make, but…. Perhaps it is as the Ex-school board member stated when he said many just give up and focus their efforts else where.

          Unfortunatly, for most of us, that is perhaps what we have to do. However, this country has a great number of students moving through the public system and they eventually will end up as our next workers and leaders. There are those who are involved in fighting for change and they put a lot of time and effort into this fight and should be commended for it.

          Hopefully more can find the time, energy and shear will to join in and stick it out. The effort needs to be focused and coordinated. It is a daunting task but our students and our country deserve and need nothing less.

  • Anonymous

    You need to get a new picture for Sizemore. That is either outdated or just a bad picture. Last time I saw him he looked nothing like that.

  • Bob Clark

    It would sure be nice to stop the self dealing going on in Oregon governments. Unions set up shell organizations which get funded through union dues, and these organizations in turn dominate political donations. In effect government unions get politicians elected, and then these same union-beholding elected officials are charged with negotiating benefits for the rank-and-file government employees. In the judicial system, judges typically remove themselves entirely from cases in which they have even a tangential conflict of interest. This should also apply to elected officials when it comes time to negotiating with government employee unions when they have accepted union originated donations.

    Thank you for your efforts, Bill!

  • CRAWDUDE

    It would be nice to get the unions out of politics for the most part. I know they need to advocate for their members but they don’t need to try and control every aspect of government.

    When pansy politicians have to ask the unions if it’s okay to pass any bill or policy then the unions have way to much power.

  • Jenifer

    You have a gift for spin, Mr. Sizemore, but the warped perspective you present, the notion that you were only sued for filing previous iterations of this measure, is simply untrue. You were sued the year you put several measures on the ballot, including merit based pay for teachers but not paycheck protection, and it was your organization’s overtly illegal activities the prompted the lawsuit and resulted in the racketeering conviction.

    • Chris McMullen

      Not that I’d trust Mr. Sizemore with my money, but why did the teachers union sue him and not the State or Oregon? Seems if he was really guilty of racketeering, the AG or a DA would have brought charges.

      • CRAWDUDE

        They had no case but they did give amnesty to the star witness for her criminal acts. She and the gal under her were the ones that actually carried out the illegal activities. I always wondered why the D.A. would give a criminal amnesty to testify in a civil trial, it always sounded awful fishy to me.

        Jennifer omits this in her post. Sizemore was never personally convicted, the company was.

        • Jenifer

          I don’t know where you get your information, Dude, but it isn’t much more accurate than Mr. Sizemore’s spin of the facts above. That “star witness” you mention brought a good deal of information to light about Mr. Sizemore’s own illegal activities, and they included falsifying tax returns, hiding contributions from the Elections Division and the public, personal spending that appeared to be large-scale embezzlement, and evidence of a money laundering scheme involving a good friend of the Bush Aministration, Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform. As I understand it, Hardy Myers was concerned that charging Mr. Sizemore criminally would be perceived as politically motivated. Some might wonder (justifiably) whether political pressure from Washington, DC also played a role.

          • CRAWDUDE

            Nice paragraph of fluff dudette, bottom line “He was never convicted of any crime”. You just can’t bring yourself to say it.

            If Myers is that big of a wuss, he should resign. He didn’t charge him because he could win the case. He did however allow his office to conspire against Sizemore by granting amnesty against criminal charges to a witness in a civil trial. That witness happened to be the actual perpetrator of the crimes.

            Obviously Myers didn’t feel her testimony was credible since he never prosecuted a criminal case against Sizemore. The jury in the civil case found Sizemores company libel, which is funny since the star witness was the one who made the criminal decisions. She was unable to tie him into her actions, though in all fairness I’m sure he was aware of what she was doing. That being said, in our justice system he was not convicted of any crimes associated with the civil trial.

          • Jenifer

            Your take is fascinating but inaccurate. However, it seems you are very comfortable living in your little fantasy world and I will leave you to it.

          • CRAWDUDE

            Probably for the best. Have a great day Jenifer.

          • Chris McMullen

            That’s nice Jenifer. Liberal Hardy Meyers would rather neglect to prosecute Sizemore and let justice go unserved rather than do his job and potentially provide the allusion of partisanship?

            How many more potential felons has he bypassed in order to look “fair.” Sounds like he’s doing a bang-up job!

            Sorry, but your premise does not hold water. Meyers knew he couldn’t convict Sizemore. Instead he directly supported the OEA.

            It’s obvious our beloved school unions are in the back pocket of this state’s prosecutorial system. We already know they’re in the back pocket of the governor.

    • Sybella

      Why should teachers have paycheck protection over any other employees, private or public?

    • Becky

      Sorry, Jenifer. While I wholeheartedly agree with your sentiments, you’re wrong about the measures. Sizemore did put paycheck protection on the ballot that year. Three of the four measures that formed the basis of the lawsuit were paycheck protection. The other was the one making federal taxes deductible on state tax returns.

  • ExSchoolBoard Member

    To answer the question “why no internal reform?”, is easy in a nutshell: Career Suicide. Reformers within Public Education (K-12, and higher ed) are fewer than Conservative Republicans in Hollywood. There is a selection process that removes people who ask questions.

    I was on a school board, and in replacing a Principal (due to a vacancy), the process was rigged. There was pressure to appoint certain people to the hiring committee, and to keep others off that committee. The whole focus was to get ‘somebody liberal’ (direct quote) to replace the previous principal. Much worse for the Superintendent vacancy; very political, but much more public process.

    The bottom line is that the teachers are pussy wipped into behaving like sheep; very few social conservatives; very few fiscal conservatives; very few religious believers; very few Republicans. Any of those that are there, are outnumbered and demoralized. And I bet (though I don’t know) that people like Jerry were mostly silent and did not rock the boat when they were in their teaching role. At least Jerry did not lose his real values. Most people who are stuck in that liberal system get slowly molded into the image of their peers, not knowing that they have become what they once detested.

    Those of us who try and change the system from within, quickly get labeled as a conservative, republican, religious, etc. Then we get targeted, and voted out, marginalized, or just plain give up and focus our efforts where there is some remote return on our investment. And we leave the students to deal with a sick system that only focuses on the teachers, not the students. (I hate to say it, but it is almost a “oh well, sorry students, good luck, but I have better things to do” type of attitude of resignation.)

    Competition is the only solution. If Toyota, Nissan, BMW, Mercedes, Audi, Subaru etc were not around to force Chrysler, GM and Ford to compete for the consumer’s dollar, then the Big Three US automakers would look just like the US Public Schools, US Postoffice and the various DMVs. Bloated, obese and worst amoung the developed nations.

    • Patrick

      Excellent, this is the kind of feed back and conversation that I was looking for in my original post. You are now the second person who has had a direct connection with the school system and who has been willing to state your opinions and observations.

      While two people is in no way a major movement, if there are two, then there must be more. I know that there are those who feel highly threatened to speak out, but if they have a safe environment in which to speak and hear others coming forward, then perhaps they too will feel completed to write in. If there are, please post and let others know and hear about your experiences.

      If you want to see change happen and still care (and I beleive you do) then remember these postings at the next legislative sesion when the next bill for school choice or school reform is proposed. Know that you are not a lone voice.

      If each person who posts knows of one other person that has a same or similar experience, then in a very short period there will be a large contingent and perhaps the next time that bill does come around it will make it’s way before the voters.

      In the mean time, if you know anyone with a student in school, public or pirvate, ask them what they really think is going on in the classroom and ask them that question: “Is there a purpose to what your child is doing?”

  • dean

    First, the teacher’s union is not “the government,” so they don’t need to “remain neutral in elections.”

    Second, Mr Sizemore picked the fight, and then whines when his target decides to fight back and kicks his arse in court. When you go after people’s paychecks and retirement benefits, what do you expect them to do? Lay down and take it?

    Third, Mr Sizemore goes on to claim that unions have a huge amount of power in our politics. That would be great if it were actually true. Wages all across the board, especially in non-unionized jobs that can’t be off-shored like WallMart, would be much higher and our social problems in this nation would be much lower. Union wages keep roofs over the heads of families and bread on the table. When unions were at their strongest politically, in the 1950s and 60s, we had a far better economy for the majority of people. Today it takes 2 full time breadwinners to maintain a household, debts are piling up, and the rich keep getting richer.

    Lastly, Mr Sizemore seems to think he is actually winning. Given what he has to show for the past few years of his efforts, this is borderline delusional, but then that is true for the right wing in general.

  • rural resident

    I feel a little sorry for both Jerry and Patrick. Patrick, you must be involved with by far the worst school district in Oregon if you’ve never heard teachers talk about developing a love of learning and for teaching students how (versus what) to think. Either that, or you’ve been tuning them out when they say it. (I’m assuming from your post that you’ve actually spent a worthwhile amount of time there.)

    Teachers’ political views cover the spectrum from far left to far right in most schools. And I doubt that any administrator has ever been hired with a mandate to provide only a “liberal” point of view. Many tend to be fairly idealistic, and the constant drumbeat of criticism (often with little real evidence or knowledge of the situation) from the right probably does, over time, lead to making K-12 school personnel a) more sympathetic to the Dems in Oregon; and b) somewhat more forgiving of unions that do tend to be farther to the left than teachers as a whole. Actually, most teachers’ political views are relatively invisible to students and to many of the other teachers.

    I agree that, in some cases, a healthy dose of competition would improve things. However, people who point out the shortcomings of public schools vis-a-vis private schools are comparing apples and oranges. Private schools can be selective about admissions. They have much more leeway to send troublemakers packing — usually back to the public schools. And, yes, there are administrators and teachers who are of questionable competence, if not downright dangerous to everyone around them. However, unions haven’t had nearly as much of a negative impact on schools as have many of the idiotic rules and regulations created by legislators, lawyers, and ODE personnel.

    As for the “withholding” argument, many years ago the federal government didn’t withhold income taxes. They found that they had trouble collecting, and withholding made it easier for people to pay and allowed for a steadier revenue stream. Withholding is a common practice for many things, from income and social security taxes to 401(k)/403(b) contributions in both the private and public sectors. Sizemore is trying to create some mischief by encouraging some people to become “free riders” in the system. That seems to violate some basic tenets of fairness. His rationalizations seem pretty shallow.

    • Jerry

      Rural

      No need to feel sorry for me. You should feel sorry for yourself if you can’t figure out that being forced to pay union dues even if you are NOT A MEMBER of the union makes no sense.

      What part of that don’t you understand?

      By the way, I think you should help the Boy Scouts so I am going to withhold $150 per month out of your paycheck to do just that. According to you this would be fine.

      Let’s do it, then.

      • CRAWDUDE

        Yes, Oregon liberals try to tout how progressive they are but refuse to make Oregon a “Right to work” state. No person should be forced to pay dues to any union that they don’t belong to. Membership in a union especially if you’re a government employee should never be mandatory, they work for the people not the union. Many still have pride in that fact, forcing them in a union is a slap in the face!

        Oregon should switch their public system over to a system resembling the Federal Retirement and pay system.

  • Bill Sizemore

    Is it possible for union spokespersons to comment on one of my measures without making baseless personal attacks or assailing my character? It must be a reflex when my name comes up. They can’t help themselves. They find a dishonest judge with a blatant conflict of interest and then quote him as if he is somehow a credible source.

    Here is the bottom line for me: The teachers union could not survive a year if every teacher in America was free to pay them dues or not pay them dues. Teachers unions run a nationwide protection racket that survives because government makes teachers pay them.

    Most teachers keep quiet because keeping quiet is easier than being blackballed. Besides, unions do for teachers what they do for most other professions, i.e., win them more pay for less work and less accountability.

    Union hacks can say what they want, but I was not sued because of anything I did wrong or even because of the things a couple of employees did. What they did was more stupid than consequential. I was sued because unions decided it was cheaper to use their friends in the court system to shut me down than to keep fighting me with expensive television ads.

    Their lawsuit was merely an effort to save them campaign cash. It was a way to avoid spending union money fighting my measures so they could spend that money electing more Democrats.
    Judge LaBarre and Hardy Myers went along with the scheme. I could elaborate, but their plan has worked.

    Public schools today are about the following things in the following order: (1) Extracting more money from taxpayers; (2) increasing the pay and benefits of school employees; (3) making kids grow up to be good, politically correct taxpayers; and (4) teaching them the things they ought to be learning in school.

    For some teachers, number four is number one. God bless ’em. But for the teachers union and most of their activist teachers, number four isn’t even on the list. And that makes them, the teachers union, the greatest threat to education this country has ever known. Being sued by them is an honor. They are suing me to avoid a public debate they don’t want to have, which is why they offered to not pursue their judgment, if I would drop my appeal and agree to stay out of politics for fifteen years.

    Have you heard any union officials deny offering me that deal? I thought not.

    • CRAWDUDE

      Sorry, you wrote the article so I can’t let you have the 1st and last word 🙂

    • rural resident

      Jerry …. You’re analogy of organizations like OEA and the Boy Scouts is just plain silly — unless the Boy Scouts have gone into the business of representing the employment interests of some public or private group of employees.

      CD …. One of the problems with allowing people to join unions or not within a certain bargaining unit is the “free rider” problem I alluded to earlier. I wouldn’t have any big problem with the practice you suggest, as long as you can come up a way to give the non-union employees lower wages, lesser benefits, and no union representation when things go sour in the workplace. In that case, the non-union people are not receiving the same benefits as those who do belong. Unfortunately, given the choice of paying or not paying dues and receiving exactly the same benefits, most people will opt to be “free riders.”

      Bill …. I an anything but a “union spokesman.” I’m not a member of OEA. In fact, I’m not even a big fan of the organization. They opposed our group’s charter school application and I think they waste far too much of their members’ money sending people to regional and national conventions. However, it’s hard to argue that they haven’t made a considerable difference for Oregon’s teachers, or that they’re certainly a player in state politics. You could also argue that people would feel differently about state and federal income taxes, social security, medical insurance premiums, and other items that are handled through payroll deductions if they had to write checks each month for them. You’d probably be right. However, there would be a certain amount of chaos that is eliminated through the convenience of having these things deducted.

      • Jerry

        What is silly is that you think people should pay to belong to something they don’t belong to. I only used the Boy Scouts because I knew it would make you take notice. Most lib-leaning, left-wing, people hate the Boy Scouts. Anyway, you seem to be out of touch with reality if you really think people should be FORCED by the government to pay for something they not only don’t want, but may, in fact, be totally opposed to. That was my intent in using the Boy Scouts – you just couldn’t figure it out.

      • CRAWDUDE

        I know what you mean by the “free rider” comment but I strongly believe no one should be forced to join a union. You could never pay them less than a union member, what I would suggest is that non-members be made aware that the union will not represent them in any personnal employer/employee actions.

        • davidg

          I am not sure I know what anyone means by the “free rider” argument. It is used by people who don’t want to volunteer to do anything they think is worthwhile for themselves or their community. It basically says: unless the government pays for it, then I don’t want to contribute to it. This attitude is really an argument against volunteering for anything.

          I think the people who use the “free rider” argument to justify taxes have failed to examine their own lives. Most of us volunteer for a variety of activities, whether in our schools, churches, libraries, hospitals, or just generally in our community. Anytime you volunteer for anything then the “free riders” get the benefit without paying. Doesn’t that offend you? It shouldn’t.

          Those who make the “free rider” argument essentially want the government to take over whatever the activity is they are talking about. The consequences of the government taking over any activity is this: people then expect the government to continue to fund that activity – and then they refuse to volunteer anymore since the activity has become “the government’s responsibility.” The “free rider” argument thus creates its own negative spiral effect to motivate people NOT to volunteer for anything.

          It doesn’t bother me when someone doesn’t want to volunteer to help causes I support and volunteer for. But it does irk me when I hear this moralistic “free rider” argument for doing nothing. If you don’t want to help, at least don’t claim that that is because you are morally superior to the rest of us.

        • carol

          That would probably work. With management aware of the status quo, it wouldn’t take long to create a group of second class citizens in the workplace.

    • Derek Denton

      Mr. Sizemore is not about principles, he’s been found guilty of racketeering, signature forgery and a judge recently affirmed he engaged in a “calculated course of criminal conduct” and “cynical, criminal manipulation of the democratic process”.

      He’s currently funded by out-of-state special interests.

      It’s a long document, but here’s the tragicomedy of Bill Sizemore, especially read his conduct and a report of the trial and findings against him in 2002 (scroll to the bottom):

      http://www.oregoned.org/sizemoretrial

      • Chris McMullen

        Oh and the OEA is not funded by out of state special interests? The NEA is the largest union in the world.

        I’m curious just how Mr. Sizemore’s organization and backers stands to make money with their agenda. On the other hand, the NEA stands to make tons of money and increase their power-base if they go unchallenged.

        BTW, just how have our schools improved since unions took over?

  • CRAWDUDE

    Once again, OTU enterprises was the one charged and convicted it says so in your own “Proof” link. Yes, he ran OTU enterprises but he wasn’t personally found guilty. Read the section Thursday Sept 26- day 14 of your article………… your proof link happens to be on the OEA website ( not exactly an unbiased venue).

    What’s next ? 5 story links to the Blue Oregon site written by one of his former employees? Already had someone send those to my personnal e-mail, it’s a biased site with a biased writer.

    • dean

      CD…Oregon Catalyst is not a “biased site with biased writers?” What in your opinion is an unbiased source of information on the Sizemore saga?

      To Jerry, Cd and David G, “free riding” is a crucial economics tool. If you reject its application to not only unions, but to all government programs, you might as well also throw out the free market you guys so often tout as the answer to every problem.

      Economics is the study of human behavior, and free riding is one aspect of that behavior that has huge implications for our economic and social world.

      • Jerry

        Dean – you are dead wrong.

        There is no free ride at all. If the teacher doesn’t want to join the union then the union doesn’t have to help them in any way whatsoever. How do you fail to understand this??

        If a teacher does not want any help from the union, where is the free ride????
        The teacher can negotiate their own contract, work with the district on their own working conditions, etc.
        If I don’t want any help from the union then I should not have to pay them anything.

        Your whole understanding of what you call “free ride” is so grossly twisted and wrong it is hard for me to even comment.

        Let me try, though, for you.
        I want nothing from the union, NOTHING, so I will not join. I expect and want NOTHING. I pay them nothing. Where is the free ride? It is NOT THERE unless you are incapable of understand plain English. I want NOTHING, I GET NOTHING, I pay for NOTHING. I want them to leave me alone if every aspect of the job all the time.

        Man, you people really worry me sometimes. This is simple enough to understand – unless you are blinded by your left-leaning tendencies.

        By the way, I thought you thought that poor people should get a free ride – you have been saying that in these posts for weeks.
        Well, maybe a teacher just starting out with a family and only making 35 K for all that hard work should get a free ride.
        Man, make up your mind.

        I wonder just who you consult and what they ask you to consult them on. It sure must not be principles of business or economics.

  • CRAWDUDE

    Dean, I do not back any claim I make on any subject by using Catalyst articles or it’s members posts, because they are all subjective and biased. On the same point, I will point out as you do also when someone is using flawed and/or biased material to lend creedance to their post.

    The bottom line in this whole story about the OTU vs OEA is that the enterprise named OTU was the party found guilty of the charges, not its founder as the OEA posters on here have alluded to. In the same OEA website that Derek cited it says that at the time Sizemore was the only employee of OTU, that statement was disingenius at best since all the other employees had been let go by then. His 2nd in command was given immunity from criminal presecution (state collusion with the OEA union lawyers, I have never heard of anyone being given criminal immunity for civil trial testimony) to testify against OTU in a civil trial, outlining many of the mistakes or activities the OTU including this witness and it’s employees (note the plural) committed. The 3rd in command if I recall correctly ( this was only a blurp in the paper as I recall) pled guilty to some sort of charges and walked out of the story.

    If you read the site Derek sent you’ll see exactly what I just wrote is correct, you just have to disregard the biased personnal comments about Sizemore. On top of that I recieved an e-mail on my personnal e-mail from a person who read my earlier posts and felt I was incorrect. I was given 5 articles to read supporting their view , all five were on Blue Oregon , some of which were written by the possibly disgruntled former employee who testified against OTU. It was the same biased drabble, if they can’t back their claims up with anything besides their own articles it’s better to not make the statements to begin with.

    Go to the Oregonian and Portland Tribune archives and read the story in the whole. I did this last year when having a similar discussion on this matter. While not the most unbiased papers in the world, I was very surprised how the real trial reporting was so much different than what the Union and Blue Oregon articles say.

    Dean, I’m a little confused with your free riding comment? Are you for it or against it? My comments were aimed at the Public Employees Unions not unions as a whole. The public employee unions are not members of the free market as you stated. Non-governmental unions and employees are………in my opinion, if I’m wrong I’ll live with it.

    • dean

      CD…I’ve got no argument with your point that it was Sizemore’s organization that was found guilty, not him personally. Given that he was the founder, president, & wizard in charge, I’m not sure it makes much difference with respect to his credibility. But that reflects my own bias against what he stands for. I have no personal grudge against him.

      Jerry…I’m definitely not a consultant on economics. I have taken a few courses, and have an interest in the subject, that’s all. My consulting work is in landscape architecture, ecological restoration, and natural resource management.

      The free ride is exactly where rural resident said it is. If a workplace is unionized, and that union has negotiated an agreement with the employer, and all employees are treated the same under that agreement, then allowing opt outs lets an individual benefit from the agreement while not paying the dues. Your preffered system exists in right to work states. One result is that union membership in those states (mainly Dixie) is very low, wages are very low, and poverty is much higher than in other areas. Is that what you want for us in Oregon?

      I guess if you want nothing to do with the union, then you ought to go to work somewhere else, which it sounds like is the choice you ultimately made. And I say Mazeltov!

      In 1960 Canada and the US had about the same rate of unionization, 32 & 30% respectively. By 1999 we were down to 13% and Canada was still at 32% The US has experienced a sharp increase in income inequality over that period, while Canada has not. Canada also has much lower crime and about 1/7 the per capita prison population that we have. Coincidence?

      Canada make sit easy for workers to form unions and makes it hard for employers to prevent them. That is why Wall-Mart shut down their Toronto store last year…they did not want the newly formed union to “infect” their US operations.

      As for my wanting to give poor people a “free ride.” I guess I would characterize my view as wanting to give them a “subsidized fare”. Why? Because is it the ethically right thing, it is insurance in case any of we middle class runs into an illness, gets laid off, or we have serious bad luck, AND it will save money and grief over the long haul. Poverty does not just affect the poor. It affects all of us Jerry. I know you disagree, and I respect and listen to your viewpoint, as I hope you do mine.

      On the Scouts, my kid was a cub scout and I participated, in spite of the homophobia of the larger organization.

      CD…I’m not for or against free riding. I mean, we are all guilty of it to one extent or another on a wide range of issues (i.e. we are able to breathe clean air because others spent their time amassing data and lobbying for the clean air act).

      In the specific case of teacher union dues, it just depends on the agreement they have with their employer. As a general principle I am for giving unions the edge because their existance reduces poverty and raises most of the boats in the working class pond. Even though I find unions problematic in that they often spend too much effort protecting their worst members at the expense of their better ones.

      True, public education is not a free market. That doesn’t mean someone could not or would not free ride on public unions. What I meant was that “free riding” is a very important principle of economics as a whole, and if we dismiss one aspect we don’t like we might as well dismiss the aspects we do like. Badly stated I guess.

      • CRAWDUDE

        Now , just for the record, I was not defending Sizemore, he can do that himself. I was making sure the information originally posted about him starting on post#5 was as accurately portrayed as possible. Since the OEA and Blue Oregon have chosen to monitor this site, it needs to be done.

      • Jerry

        Dean,
        Yes, badly stated it was. The people in the South seem to be doing fine, as do the people in Arizona. If they weren’t they would change things.

        Your comment that people who don’t want to belong to unions shouldn’t teach, then, doesn’t even deserve commenting on as it is so very, very wrong.
        Why do you think the education system is so poor? It is precisely because of the unions.

        • dean

          Jerry…the south is the least unionized, poorest, unhealthiest, least educated, stingiest on social services, lowest taxed and most Republican part of our nation. What’s not to like?

          If I wanted to be a carpenter, I could take a job at a union shop and pay my dues or I could work non-union shop for half or less of the pay and save on the dues. If I want to teach, I could choose a private school with no union , lower pay and benefits, or choose a union shop and pay my dues. But I can’t have the advantages of the union shop job and then refuse to pay the dues because it undermines my co-workers and the sacrifices they made to get pay and benefits up to the level they are at. That is what I meant by “shouldn’t teach.” Sure they should teach, just elsewhere.

          I can’t agree with you on blaming the shortcomings of the education system on the teacher’s unions. First, I don’t even agree that our system is “so poor.” My son got a very good education at Portland Public Schools, had a series of great union dues paying teachers, and is now doing well in college. Oregon schools rank among the highest in the nation in a lot of categories, including SAT scores and graduation rates. Way above the south by the way.

          The bottom line is that on average, schools in upper middle class communities like Lake Oswego have union teachers and great results. Under funded schools in low income communities have poor results. Both have unions. What is the difference Jerry?

          And note I said “on average.” There are exceptions in both cases.

          • Jerry

            Dean
            There are no underfunded schools in poor communities in Oregon. Per pupil spending is very close across the state.
            In fact, your question proves that unions don’t help at all with education – if they did, the “poor” schools you mention would do just fine. The union would make sure of it.
            Oregon’s average per pupil annual expenditure is just over $9,000. In some of your “poor” school districts it is higher.

  • rural resident

    Davidq ….. I’m puzzled by your comment. The “free rider” situation has nothing do with the government taking over an activity. A “free rider” is someone who receives an economic benefit but doesn’t pay anything for it — leaving the costs to others. Let’s assume that the people who live in the Portland area pay all of the costs of Tri-Met. If I leave my rural coastal burg and ride around that area on Tri-Met without paying a fare, I’m a “free rider.”

    In the case at hand, Oregon law requires that the teachers’ union represent all of the members of the bargaining unit. (Jerry, you’re off base here.) They don’t have a choice about defending teachers who get into disputes with administrators. They can’t agree to a split pay scale, with union members receiving additional pay and benefits derived from the union’s additional economic and political strength. If they could, chaos would ensue. Carol is right that administrators would quickly seize upon the opportunity and you would have a group of people with fewer rights and lesser economic standing. (Though, one might argue that such a situation would quickly convince the “non-joiners” to become union members!) Precluding this situation is the reason that Oregon law forces the union to provide full benefits to all bargaining unit members.

    This is why Sizemore’s initiatives are really all about making mischief instead of solving a real problem. It isn’t that people don’t know how much they pay in union dues. Most of them do. As long as Oregon remains a union shop state, people have to pay union dues (or “fair share” payments). Making people write out monthly checks only makes for inconvenience. It doesn’t actually give people a choice about being a member of the bargaining unit.

    Chris McMullen ….. While teachers’ unions are often somewhat overly enthusiastic in their defense of some of the weaker members of the profession, there actually IS a case to be made that they improve education. The increased pay and benefit levels attract people who are, in general, more skilled and committed to teaching. Without collective bargaining, salary and benefit levels would be lower; the potential for arbitrary and capricious management behavior (beyond that which exists now!) would cause teachers’ energies to be even more misdirected than they often are. Current contract language may not optimize achievement, but it adds an element of sanity to any educational system that’s pretty chaotic at times because of outside forces working on the schools.

    This isn’t the workplace that existed until the 1970s. Women have many more employment opportunities so you don’t have a virtually captive element in the workforce. People who argue against teachers’ unions usually believe that they drive costs up. In a labor-intensive business like education, they’re probably right — salaries are higher because of unions. That’s a good thing when schools have to compete harder for good people. One of the common complaints is that teachers often aren’t those at the top of their classes in college. It’s hard to believe that lower pay and less control over their professional environment would lead to more qualified people becoming teachers.

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