Exclusive: Teachers Union Document Reveals Master Plan for Unionizing Charter School Networks

Whitmire: In the State That Created High-Performing Charter Networks, College Success Is Lagging Behind Others

Rafal-Baer: In Education, Preparing Next Generation of Leaders Shouldn’t Be a Revolutionary Idea

Smith: 10 Lessons From Rocketship Education’s First Decade as a Pioneer of K-5 Personalized Learning

Oreopoulos: No Diploma Without a Plan for the Future? Why Chicago’s New Graduation Requirement Might Work

Williams: How a Tougher Test and Chaos in D.C. Just Made Things a Whole Lot Harder for Kids Learning English

Quality Early Learning Programs Are a Key to Future Success. Why Don’t States Put Them in Their ESSA Plans?

Bradford: A Free Education System Bought and Sold on the Housing Market, as It Was Intended to Be

Litt: Why Kids in Low-Performing Schools Are Set to Lose Big Under California’s Current ESSA Plan

Reality Check: Before Smartphones Ruined Teenagers, It Was Video Games! And TV! And Elvis!

Lake & Tuchman: Disability Rights Advocates Are Fighting the Wrong Fight on School Choice

Anello: Why the NAACP Should Look Beyond Misleading Narratives & Work With Charters to Lift Up Black Students

Analysis: How OER Is Boosting School Performance and Equity From the Suburbs to the Arctic

Analysis: Which Bothers Randi Weingarten More — Segregation or School Choice?

Howard Fuller: Advancement — the Second ‘A’ in NAACP — Should Apply to Our Children Too

Korman & Rotherham: You Can Help Schools and Social Service Agencies Collaborate Better for Students

Sigmund: In New York’s Schools, a Serious Transparency Problem When It Comes to Student Data

Bradford: For Black Families Focused on Education, the NAACP Just Committed ‘the Worst Kind of Betrayal’

Mesecar: 4 Ways Tennessee Is Prioritizing Personalized Learning in Its New ESSA Plan

Six Secrets the National Education Association Keeps About Its Business Dealings

Analysis: Teachers Union Adds 40,000 Offshore Members While Labor Rolls Stagnate at Home

August 9, 2017

Talking Points

.@AFTunion has taken on Puerto Rico 40,000 teachers as a trial

Puerto Rico teachers joining @AFTunion will pay dues of only $1 per month

Sign Up for Our Newsletter

Mike Antonucci’s Union Report appears Wednesdays; see the full archive

Amid stagnating union membership rolls across the country, the American Federation of Teachers added 40,000 education employees into its ranks last week.

AFT reached an affiliation agreement with the Asociación de Maestros de Puerto Rico, the exclusive bargaining agent for the island’s public school teachers. It represents a unit larger than the Chicago Teachers Union.

But the affiliation is a unique one, characteristic of the difficult and often combative relationship between American unions and Puerto Rico’s teachers.

For one thing, AFT and AMPR describe the new relationship as a “trial affiliation” of up to three years. This is an unprecedented arrangement, in my experience. Second, AMPR will be charged national dues of only $1 per member per month. AFT affiliates on the U.S. mainland, by way of comparison, will pay $19.28 per member per month beginning in September. AMPR members’ dues will remain stable because their union pledged to pay AFT’s fee from its own coffers. For its part, AFT pledged to provide AMPR’s members with the same services it provides all other members.

AMPR became the bargaining agent for teachers in Puerto Rico in April 2016 after an election in which its rival, the Federación de Maestros de Puerto Rico — FMPR — was banned from participation. The two unions have been battling since public-sector collective bargaining was enacted in Puerto Rico in 1999, even as America’s unions have treated the island like their own little Game of Thrones.

Back in 1999, AMPR was affiliated with the National Education Association and FMPR with AFT. FMPR won the first union representation election — the right to negotiate the island’s teachers contract — giving AFT the upper hand and all but eliminating NEA’s presence in Puerto Rico.

In 2003, a radical caucus won election to FMPR leadership and began disaffiliating from AFT. In what has since become standard operating procedure, AFT first sought to have the FMPR president removed from office, and then, in 2005, attempted to establish a trusteeship over the union. This was met with massive defiance and protests that reached all the way to an AFT conference in Washington, D.C.

After losing several court battles and failing to form a competing organization, AFT effectively surrendered, disaffiliating FMPR — as if FMPR had not already disaffiliated itself.

FMPR’s victory was short-lived, however. After it authorized an illegal strike, the government of Puerto Rico decertified the union in 2008 and called a new representation election. With FMPR legally sidelined, AMPR rose from its ashes, assisted by a new affiliation with the Service Employees International Union.

Teachers were given the choice of AMPR or no union, and 55 percent of them voted for no union. That ended SEIU’s involvement and left the island’s teachers without any union representation.

Labor militancy continued, however, with both FMPR and AMPR participating in strikes and protests in 2014, but it wasn’t until last year that the government allowed a new representation election to be held. With FMPR barred from participating, AMPR easily won.

AFT gets a morale boost from taking AMPR under its wing, but not much else. Puerto Rico doesn’t permit the collection of agency fees. All union dues are voluntary. Even if every teacher were to join, the annual take for AFT would be less than $500,000, not enough to cover the cost of three union staffers.

Perhaps AFT members will think it is worthwhile to subsidize union operations in Puerto Rico, but AFT isn’t likely to ask them.

Email tips to [email protected]