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Antonucci: California Teachers Association seeks 80 percent member turnout in November

Mike Antonucci | July 24, 2018

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Mike Antonucci’s Union Report appears weekly at LA School Report.

With large membership losses on the horizon, the California Teachers Association will take advantage of its current strength and devote considerable resources to state and local political campaigns this fall. The 325,000-member teachers union is spending the summer devising strategy to help elect Gavin Newsom as governor and Tony Thurmond as state schools superintendent, as well as maintain friendly majorities in the state legislature.

With the resignation of Los Angeles Unified board president Ref Rodriguez, CTA and its affiliate, United Teachers Los Angeles, can also be expected to be heavily involved in the race to elect his successor. A victory in the campaign for the District 5 seat would give the unions a majority friendly to their interests.

To those ends, CTA set a goal of 80 percent member turnout for the general election in November, with the notion that those nearly 260,000 votes could make the difference in many close races.

The union will canvass teachers at work and at home, coupling the face-to-face effort with outreach by mail, social media, and robo-calls.

CTA is providing activists with a list of do’s and don’ts for the campaign, which helpfully explains how unions are allowed to campaign and what restrictions are placed upon them. I have found over the years that both union members and the general public are misinformed about these rules.

For example, CTA and other public employee unions can spend dues money for internal communications on any subject, including candidates for political office, but those communications must be restricted to members and their immediate families alone.

CTA and its affiliates cannot use dues for any goods or services provided to a candidate or a political party. However, independent expenditures, issue advocacy, and virtually any other political activity can be paid for with dues.

The union specifically warned its activists not to distribute literature prepared by a candidate’s campaign, coordinate volunteers for a candidate, host a fundraiser, or facilitate the collection of campaign contributions, since all of these actions would be considered an in-kind donation to the candidate.

Union resources (phones, polling data, etc.) are not to be supplied to a campaign free of charge. I shouldn’t have to add that public school or workplace resources are also not supposed to be used in support of political candidates, but incidents of this type occur every election cycle.

Finally, CTA advised its activists to provide voter registration and polling location information to every member equally, regardless of party or how they are going to vote.

If there is one admonition most likely to be violated, it is the one not to put campaign information on a union website, Twitter feed, or Facebook page that is visible to the general public.

Even without the security of agency fees, public employee unions will continue to be a major political force in the state. The 2018 general election, however, is likely to be their high-water mark. Californians should expect CTA and its labor allies to make an all-out effort.

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