Rep. Mike Morley asks Utah’s charter schools to pony up

To some, it looks a bit like a holdup note.

The “it” is a letter, on Utah legislative stationery, from Representative Mike Morley (R-Spanish Fork) to Kim Frank, the “interim” captain at the hijacked UAPCS (Utah Association of Public Charter Schools) ship, suggesting that Utah’s charter schools contribute, oh say, $2000 – $5000 apiece to help rewrite Utah’s constitution to make sure the “Employee Free Choice Act,” currently stalled in Congress, never ever pollutes Utah’s pristine “right-to-exploit-work” waters.

For those who are unfamiliar with the Employee Free Choice Act (called “card-check” by its opponents), it works basically like this.  In any shop, or school, if more than 50% of the workers were to say they wanted to unionize, they’d get their wish, without the employer being able to put additional obstacles in their way or simply refusing to recognize their choice.

As the law currently stands, employers can insist that employees go to a secret ballot to get their union, and that’s where the trouble starts.  According to Gordon Lafer, a professor on the Labor Education and Research Center faculty at the University of Oregon,

In the American democratic tradition the principle of the secret ballot is not simply the fact that you go into a voting booth and pull a curtain and nobody sees what you do. It is your right to keep your political opinion private to yourself before, during and after the act of voting; that you can’t be lured or coerced into a conversation that is designed to make you reveal your political preferences. In the NLRB, while the vote does take place in a booth where nobody sees what you’re doing, management is allowed to engage in a series of behaviors in the lead up to the vote that force the vast majority of workers to reveal how they’re going to vote long before they ever step into the booth.

Most teachers at most charter schools are not union members.  And the for-profit management companies who run the payroll and administration at many of these schools would certainly like to keep it that way.  More money for teachers means less money for them.  As for Parents for Choice in Education (PCE), well any union is a bad union, whether it’s at their buddy Sam Walton’s shop, or anywhere else.  A cowed workforce is a cheap workforce.

But the real question Utah’s charter schools should be asking themselves now is what their legislative future looks like if they don’t pony up for Morley’s/PCE’s  union-busting campaign?  They already receive less funding per student than regular public schools.  They have a plan to address that, of course (keep watching this space), but if that plan fails, then what? How long is Morley’s memory?  Who are his friends?

The curious thing about Morley is that on the FAQ section of his campaign website, he answers a question about missing a pro-charter school funding vote.  The easy, and correct answer would have been “I have listed charter schools on my conflict of interest form, unlike my colleague Craig Frank, and so I do not believe it is appropriate for me to vote on any issue affecting charter schools.”  But Morley does not say this.  He talks instead about how he had a sudden, urgent need to meet with the teenagers from the Nebo School District who’d scheduled a 15 minute meeting with him at, golly, exactly the same time as the vote!

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