In Violation of Idaho’s Constitutional Bar On Public Gifts, A School Board and Union Leaders Play “Let’s Make A Deal” With Your Money – An Appeal from William Perry Pendley!
Jun 15, 2016 | by William Perry Pendley
Now, let me be clear. I grew up a union guy. When my father came home from work at the Union Pacific Railroad in Cheyenne, Wyoming, each day, I was proud of him. Not just because he worked hard, wore steel-toed boots and grease-stained overalls, and carried a lunch box, all of which were evidence to me that he did all in his power to provide for my mother, little brother, and me. I was also proud he was a leader of the men with whom he worked; after all, he served as treasurer of his Sheet Metal Workers Union, a job he took seriously. His years spent traveling the country looking for work during the Great Depression and the challenges he faced then ensured that.
Years later, as a young man, I was privileged to work with my father at the Union Pacific, as a member of the B&B crew (where I dug the ditches to reach and repair broken pipes), as an apprentice, and as a brakeman. Of course, I proudly joined the union. As a free American, I believe if you want to join a union, you should be able to join a union.
Unions today, however, are not like the unions of my father’s day or even like those in the years that I was a working man who carried a lunch box and wore steel-toed boots. Today, in figures that would stun my father, 52% of union members in the United States work for a unit of government and get their pay from funds provided by taxpayers.
My father is not the only one who would be shocked. So too would be the man for whom my father voted four times, Franklin Roosevelt. In FDR’s view, government unions were “unthinkable and intolerable.” Even the union leaders of the day thought that. “It is impossible to bargain collectively with the government,” said not Ronald Reagan, but George Meany, the president of the AFL-CIO in 1955.
Fast forward to today, and the things that FDR, Meany, and Reagan (by the way, my father become a Reagan Democrat and proudly voted for him in 1980 and 1984) warned us about have gotten worse. Recently, one expert wrote in the New York Times why government unions are bad policy: “Union contracts make it next to impossible to reward excellent teachers or fire failing ones. Union contracts give government employees gold-plated benefits—at the cost of higher taxes and less spending on other priorities.”
That is not the worst of it. Often ignoring the views of their members, from 1989 through 2014, the top ten political contributing unions alone gave over $424 million dollars of support to mostly Left-leaning candidates.
And when you factor in the ability of unions to force their members into political activities—even those that the individual members oppose—the clout of these unions, often at the taxpayers’ expense, can be astronomical. According to the Wall Street Journal’s investigation into this issue, the hours spent by union employees on political matters in 2010 (a midterm election) were equivalent to a “shadow army” much larger than all President Obama’s entire nationwide 2012 re-election staff!
Unfortunately, union hijinks continue despite laws, regulations, and even constitutional provisions enacted to protect union members, the general public, and taxpayers. Fortunately, MSLF is ready, willing, and able to fight back—when brave citizens step forward—which is exactly what MSLF is doing in Idaho, where a union, its top officials, and the government politicians, who ought to be abiding by the Constitution but are not, have set up a sweet deal for themselves at the taxpayers’ expense.
The president of the teacher’s union draws a salary from government coffers, financed by taxpayers like you and me, without teaching one class or providing one bit of service to the children of the school district. In fact, all the union president does is work towards getting more money from the state for the union members. The union president makes as much as a full-time teacher and is eligible for the massive pension fund reserved for the men and women who teach our children. In other words, taxpayers will be paying for the union head until the day he or she dies, although that person—ever since becoming president—will not have worked a single day for the school district.
In addition, all union members are given paid time off for their union activities—meetings, protests, and other political activity! All of them are on the taxpayers’ dime and in violation of the Idaho Constitution. Government, which means taxpayers like you and me, must pay those teachers, and the substitute teachers it needs to hire when union members ditch their taxpayer funded responsibilities, whenever the union says so.
To add insult to injury, during a recent election, local voters were told relentlessly that they had to approve a dramatic increase in property taxes or else schools would have to cut staff and class sizes would grow larger. What the voters were NOT told was that the school district was not using all of the new taxes to pay staff and to help keep class sizes small; instead some funds were being paid directly to the teachers’ union.
Because the Idaho Constitution’s “Gift Clauses” specifically bar state and local governments from using taxpayer funds to benefit private interests, including the teachers’ union, and because a brave nonprofit Idaho watchdog and a courageous taxpayer are willing to fight back, MSLF is now in court.
MSLF’s demand is simple: obey the Constitution, end the illegal gifts to the teachers’ union, and spend taxpayers’ scarce dollars on education.
This is a battle that, as columnist George F. Will has made clear, must be fought in States across the country. MSLF is ready. I hope you can help!
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