Asked last fall to comment on the looming decertification of United Teachers of Dade (UTD), union Vice President Antonio White fell back on the familiar strategy of victimhood and vilification.
And his designated scapegoat in this offensive is the Freedom Foundation, a national public policy watchdog working with local educators and community leaders to hold the union accountable.
“We just have to be clear about what’s really going on here,” White said. “This is a coordinated effort … to eliminate teacher’s unions in general, but more specifically, United Teachers of Dade.”
In fact, this is about UTD and the union’s documented history of exploiting and ignoring its membership.
Overwrought rhetoric aside, if this were truly an effort to bust unions and strip their members of wages, benefits and collective bargaining rights, why would the Freedom Foundation and UTD’s other critics be pushing to replace it with — wait for it — another union?
Dubbed the Miami-Dade Education Coalition, organizers of the replacement group — many of whom are former UTD members and stewards — promise to slash teacher dues by at least two-thirds, remain politically nonpartisan and hold themselves accountable to the rank and file rather than parent organizations or elected officials.
And with good reason. According to UTD’s 2022 IRS filing, the union funneled $5.3 million to affiliated organizations.
With an annual budget of $11.2 million, that means UTD exports nearly half the dues it collects to someone else.
Of the $6.2 million it keeps in Miami-Dade County, UTD spends $2.9 million on salaries for officers and staff (President Karla Hernandez-Mats alone pulls $293,127 in total compensation, according to ProPublica.) Once its other overhead costs are factored in, the union has only a fraction with which to advocate for its dues-payers, who are ostensibly its primary responsibility.
United Teachers of Dade was recognized as sole bargaining agent for the district’s 17,000 teachers in 1974 and hasn’t had to face the teachers in all the years since the 1980s — even though Miami-Dade County Public Schools now employs almost twice as many teachers as it did back then, making UTD the nation’s third-largest teachers’ union.
In that span, its leadership has outlasted four popes, seven Supreme Court justices and countless dictators. The union likely wouldn’t even be facing the music now if not for a law passed last year by the Florida Legislature requiring a re-certification vote when a government employee union’s dues-paying membership drops below 60% of those it claims to represent.
Not only do the leaders at UTD, whose membership languished at 56% during a December audit, consider this an unreasonable standard to meet, but they have the gall to demand the few members they have left be offended on their behalf.
Teachers have an option
They know if this election turns into a referendum on their record, the union is finished.
That UTD moguls have responded by lashing out at anything and everybody rather than accepting responsibility for their own failings tells you everything you need to know about how the union will operate if Miami-Dade County teachers squander this opportunity to oust it and start afresh.
The school district is infected with a bad case of UTD and its leadership. Happily, the students, parents, community members, educators and policy organizations currently aligned against them have the cure.
The Freedom Foundation stands with local teachers and their commitment to serving students and against UTD and its radical political agenda.
Aaron Withe is the CEO of the Freedom Foundation.