In the previous blog, The Almighty LABI, I illustrated how the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry flexes its muscle in the legislature. That blog was geared toward parents. In this blog, I want to explain who they are, what they do, and what our only defense is against them. By us, I mean educators.
LABI is the organization that was formerly known as the Louisiana Chamber of Commerce. They are an association of businesses that pays membership dues on a “Fair Share” calculation which is determined by the size of your business and the number of employees. Their primary purpose is to “foster a climate for economic growth by championing the principles of the free enterprise system and representing the general interests of the business community through active involvement in the political, legislative, judicial and regulatory processes.” I know. It’s pretty wordy, but it comes directly from their website. One of the ways they strive to accomplish this is through union busting. They are, essentially, the “union-busting” union. They employ nine full-time lobbyist to push legislation that favors business and industry. The financial success of its members is its priority; not what is best for our children.
Year after year, with the exception of this year, LABI has aimed its sites on the destruction of teacher unions. To an extent, through the demonizing of teachers, painting a false picture of a failed public school system and by supporting the privatization of public schools, they have succeeded in weakening the teacher unions.
Now, some would ask “who cares?” I can’t tell you how many times, in the last two years, I have heard, “Why would I join the union? They don’t do anything for us.” If you are one of those who believes this, then I say to you that you are uninformed and truly do not have an understanding of the magnitude of the efforts to destroy your profession.
In the first paragraph, I mentioned the last blog that I posted. I hope you have taken the time to read it. I want you to think a minute about who was sitting at the table in negotiations to provide you with some relief from the invalid method of evaluations that we are subjected to. Two teacher unions sat at the table, beaten and trodden from six years of abuse from the Jindal administration, fighting for your dignity. Have they lost some battles? Yes. Have they lost members? Yes. Not because they aren’t doing their jobs, but because they are the David who is matched with the Goliath, LABI. The only way for David to win this fight is through unity.
I understand that many people want to make the issue of joining a union all about conservative versus liberal, or Republican versus Democrat. The most common complaint is that the political involvement at the national level doesn’t fit with your beliefs. I understand that. I’m an independent. There are some issues that I don’t agree with. The fact is, only a small portion of your dues go to the national affiliates. The state organizations spend their time and efforts fighting for your rights and the rights of our children within the state. They support good legislation, and they oppose bad legislation. They seek out and support legislators who are friendly toward public education, regardless of political affiliation. I’ve seen it. I’m hear to tell you, in the absence of any influential or effective parent organizations, they are the only people fighting for public education at the capitol. You cannot discount the only voice you have at the state level because of decisions at the national level that you cannot control.
I’m going to ask all educators who read this to take action. Help us strengthen our voice. If you belong to a union, spread the word and urge your friends to join. I don’t care which one. Just join. (My union president will probably call me for that.) If you do not belong to a union, find a friend who does and join. Below, you will find a short summary of the union options available in Louisiana.
Louisiana Association of Educators. LAE, I believe, is the largest “stand alone” union in the state. They are affiliated, nationally, with the National Education Association (NEA). LAE was created out of a merger of the predominantly black Louisiana Education Association and the predominantly white Louisiana Teacher’s Association. The current president is Deborah Meaux, and membership information can be obtained by calling 800-256-4523, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. You can visit their website at www.lae.org.
Louisiana Federation of Teachers (LFT) The LFT was formed in 1965 and its national affiliate is the American Federation of Teachers. LFT also enjoys the support of the AFL-CIO. The current president is Steve Monaghan (retiring soon), and membership information can be obtained by calling (225)923-1037, or by emailing AskLFT@lft-aft.org. Their website can be found at www.la.aft.org/
Both of these organizations offer support to educators at the local level via due process and representation, provide liability insurance to members and advocate/lobby at the state level on behalf of public education, students and teachers. In 2015 and 2016, they joined forces in an unprecedented effort to fight for public education.
The final organization that I want to talk about is not really an option, if you value public education and the survival of your profession.
Associated Professional Educators of Louisiana (APEL) This organization proudly asserts that it is not a union, its dues are half the dues of unions, and they don’t get involved in politics or participate in lobbying. For people who are fundamentally opposed to unions, these sound like good selling points, but if you value public education and the survival of your profession, they are not good for you. Here is why.
- APEL sued LFT for defamation by circulating a brochure that implied that APEL was a union, and that LFT could meet the needs of educators better (in a nutshell). LFT filed for a summary judgment which was granted, and APEL appealed. Ultimately, the Court of Appeals overturned the decision and sent the case back to the lower court, but in its discussion, agreed with the lower court that APEL was functioning as a union. Back in the lower court, APEL eventually withdrew their claim and an “Order of Dismissal” was issued. ASSOCIATED PROFESSIONAL EDUCATORS OF LOUISIANA, Plaintiffs-Appellants v. LOUISIANA FEDERATION OF TEACHERS, Defendants-Appellees. No. 43,214-CA. Decided: April 30, 2008
- APEL’s dues are half the dues of other unions BECAUSE they don’t participate in lobbying. Why is it that APEL doesn’t lobby on behalf of public education and educators? See number 3.
- APEL doesn’t have to participate in lobbying because it aligns itself with LABI, and LABI does it for them. That’s right! The “anti-union” union is in bed with the “union-busting” union. APEL doesn’t lobby for public education because it supports the privatization of public education, and privatized schools can’t be profitable if their teachers are unionized. APEL’s policies and stance on issues support big business.
If you are a member of APEL, and you value the survival of your profession, I would urge you to consider leaving. They are aligned with LABI, CABL, Stand for Children, Louisiana Federation for Children and Educate Now!. All of these organizations support Common Core State Standards, the proliferation of predatory charter schools, vouchers, demeaning evaluations for teachers and the destruction of teacher unions and public education. In other words, privatization disguised as “choice.”
If you don’t believe me, I invite you to visit https://legis.la.gov/Legis/Broadcast.aspx and watch the video from any education committee meeting. For every single education bill, you will find every one of those organizations sitting opposite of LFT and LAE on every bill.