Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Hamilton teacher speaks

After a few failed starts, I finally found a non-tenured Hamilton teacher who was laid off and willing to talk. The teacher wanted to remain anonymous, as there is still theoretical hope there could be some rehiring done.
Here’s a bunch of direct quotes ...

“Almost all of the non-tenured teachers I work with feel misrepresented by the union. I spoke with my union rep, and I was told they were doing everything they can to save my job. So I asked what was being done, because I haven’t seen anyone in the union doing anything to protect my job.”

“The union reps never asked the rank and file about pay freezes or opening up the contract. It’s not fair. Why can’t we simply take a vote? I don’t care if I lose 500-to-2, the fact remains we don’t get to have an opinion that matters. What’s the point of having a union without having a say?”

“Before the layoffs, my union rep told me it was only a scare tactic, that no teachers would be laid off. Then 70 of us were, but why us? No one has an answer to the simple question: Why was I chosen?”

Friday, June 4, 2010

Mo' Money, Mo' ... media coverage?

So this little project is picking up steam, as a little birdie who has had it with the state worker unions forwarded us the following email below, asking the membership to vote "yes" to ... collecting more money from the membership in order to kick off a "media campaign."

The email is below, but a question, state workers: Feel like ponying up even more dough to your union?


Every member should have received a ballot in the mail about the Strategic Industry Fund (SIF). We are asking members to decide if our Union should collect and earmark funds to be used solely for a media campaign. If you go to the Union’s New Jersey website www.cwanj.org and look down the right hand side of the page, you can view some of the radio and television spots that would be broadcast if we had this fund.

Countless members have asked about us having our own campaign to counter the misinformation put out by politicians and some of the press. The creation of this fund is the way to get our message out there.

Other Unionized workers both inside the CWA and in other Unions, pay into funds to support media campaigns. The commercials that you have heard or seen by and in support of other public workers are, in fact, on the airwaves because those workers pay into similar funds.

For the past 30 years, state workers in CWA have paid a lower membership rate than other workers in CWA an in other Unions. Supporting the SIF would cost approximately 25 cents a work day or about $5 per month. NONE of this money would go to support politicians.

I understand that no one likes to spend additional money, however, this is the reality of the fight we find ourselves in. So I recommend that you support this and vote yes.

As always, we are a democratic Union, and the final choice is yours.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Spurlock, Part 2

Here's the second, unedited part of my initial interview with state worker Ian Spurlock ... comments are welcome and can be posted without leaving your name ...


There are a few reasons that I feel the Union doesn't represent me, both ideologically and professionally. Professionally, it boils down to the furlough days.

Let me be clear when I say I understand the necessity of the government to cut back across the board to plug the budget deficit. State workers are just one piece of the puzzle where savings must be found, and that's fine. The Union was able to broker a nice sweetheart deal (after a little creative blockading of a Corzine/Biden rally) where we receive 1 day of paid leave for every 2 furlough days we take. That's wonderful, I appreciate it.

But...my position, and that of every single person in my unit, Disability Determination Services, is 100% federally funded. The Federal Government pays the State of New Jersey to administer the program. When we get furloughed, the State has to give that money back to the Feds. So, by furloughing us, the State saves...nothing.

When I switched into this position from my tempory one in Unemployment, we were sent to training in Newark for 3 months. We all got to talk as a group with a Shop Steward from Newark, and I asked him point blank, 'Why are we being furloughed if we're federally funded?'

His response was, 'Yeah, the Union kind of sold us out.'

If you represent my interests, where were you during those negotiations, when you were supposed to be doing just that?

Each paycheck, I pay 1% of my gross salary to the Union. That comes out to $16.08 every two weeks. Mind you, this is not the full dues of a member. This is mandated by the contract as 'Representation Fees'. I do not get to vote. I pay this money for the right the be represented by them in contract negotiations and grievances.

But come on, ff push comes to shove and I need defense representation for disciplinary reasons or for a grievance, am I really going to want people who couldn't get 100% federally funded employees exempt for furloughs talking for me? No, no I am not.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A state employee speaks

Let's consider this the beginning of the dialogue. Ian Spurlock, who works in Disability Determination Services for the state (and who's idea it was in the first place to do this story) has begun the "formal" interview process with me. Here's a sampling of what he had to say ... and remember, state workers -- your input is wanted in the comments section.

The following is all Spurlock, unedited (though not in entirety; more to come later this week):


Ideologically speaking, I feel that I'm being asked to choose between my best interests as a taxpayer and as an employee.

My political views include a belief that the role of government should be as limited as possible. Civil Service jobs should be run as efficiently as possible and not burdened with poor employees who cannot be fired except following the most egregious of offenses. If you're not cutting it, good bye. I've been laid off before. It hurts. But deep down in me there is always that belief and knowledge that, yes, perhaps I could have worked harder and been more valuable to the company, and maybe had I done so I would still be there.

I don't feel that here. All I have to do is work to the lowest common denominator and I'll have no trouble at all. I'm not in line for any merit based promotion for at least 2 or 3 more years. I can't ask for more work, as the standard is 3 new cases per day. I could probably do 5 or 6 a day. If given the opportunity to do that and know that management would put me on some kind of fast-track for promotion, that would be fantanstic.

It would also kill the chances of those struggling with 3 a day to ever get promoted. That would allegedly be a bad thing.

Merit does, eventually, come into question though in the form of promotional tests regulated by the Civil Service Commission, however, that's years into the game.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Hamilton teacher layoffs

Would absolutely love to hear from any of the non-tenured Hamilton Township teachers who got laid off. Basic, quick question: What is your opinion of your union now? Feel free to comment anonymously below, or email me at jedelstein@trentonian.com if you'd like to talk about it further.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Had with the unions?

A lot has been made in New Jersey over public employer unions.

On the surface, it appears the current administration wants to cut them down to size, and, on the same surface, it appears all public employees are on board with their unions.

That is not the case, as this blog will demonstrate.

We'll be talking to state employees -- on record -- about how they feel their union fails them. We're also open for comments -- we understand if it's your desire to stay anonymous.

This story is part of a larger effort at The Trentonian, where we are starting to pull stories together by first going to you, the reader. The story(ies) will appear here as we get it, culminating in a giant print and online story.

Stay tuned.