November 8, 2005
Union thugs attack in LABy Lee Kaplan
Genevieve Peters is a former school teacher and teacher's union representative, now an educational consultant living in the Los Angeles area. She frequently volunteers her time for causes she passionately believes in. Among those causes is support for Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and his Propositions 74, 75 and 76 currently before the California voters this Tuesday. She feels the teacher's unions and their leadership in California are lying to the membership and taking advantage of them by urging them to defeat the governor's plans to rehabilitate California after the Gray Davis years.
But when she went to a rally against the initiatives to counter protest and to urge her fellow teachers and service workers to vote 'yes,' she was physically attacked by the crowd. L.A. Mayor Antonio Villagrosa and Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez both spoke against the initiatives that day at the rally in Los Angeles' Pershing Square, and, even though the attacks on Genevieve occurred right in front of them at the podium, they made no attempts to urge the crowd to stop the physical assaults. Oddly enough, some of the news media that taped the attack have refused to release it to the public, but the damning evidence has been posted on the Web for all to see.
According to Genevieve, the propositions have much to do with solving California's fiscal problems and free choice for union members. Proposition 74 concerns tenure for schoolteachers. Currently a teacher in grades K—12 only has to work two years to receive lifetime tenure in California. That means after only two years they receive lifetime benefits at the expense of the California taxpayer. She says the current system also places some educators on the California payroll for life who are incompetent—California is currently ranked 47th in academic performance in the 50 states yet spends 50 billion dollars per year, one of the highest education budgets nationally. 'Being a teacher myself, I've been in classrooms where there are teachers who should not be in front of children. They're ineffective educators, poor role models and just waiting out their retirements,' she explained. She continued, 'Our children deserve a system that allows parents to get incompetent teachers out of the classroom. I don't believe they should have tenure at all, yet all the governor wants is to extend approval from two to five years. This is not a profession where employees should be allowed to grow complacent.'
Besides Prop 74 increasing the vetting time for tenure of schoolteachers to five years, it would give decision making abilities back to the principals instead of teachers' unions like the California State Employees Association (CSEA) and California Teachers Association (CTA), thus saving state taxpayers millions of dollars.
'How many children sitting in our classrooms are actually getting a solid education?' she asked. 'It's almost impossible to get fired. If you're not educating that is exactly what needs to happen. Let's not play with our children's future,' she said. 'The current system is ineffective when the California taxpayer ends up rewarding incompetence because of the strength of the unions.'
She mentioned that instead of strengthening the curriculum currently millions are spent at taxpayer expense in lawsuits when the worst teachers are removed for even egregious inappropriate behavior in the classroom. She described how one teacher who continued to swear at her students had to be paid $25,000 to leave the district, a story featured in campaign ads. 'Prop 74 would strengthen education in California and make sure teachers are qualified and actually teach the children,' she explained.
'The unions have become the tail wagging the dog,' she says when it comes to the teachers' unions. She alluded to Proposition 75 that also gives union members a choice if they wish to donate to political campaigns or candidates endorsed by the leadership. Currently, union members have no choice in the matter. 'It's paycheck protection,' she says. 'The union shouldn't be in the business of the personal politics of the union bosses. Their job is working conditions and salaries.' She says currently the unions engage in groupthink. 'They don't care what teachers want, the leadership only want to tell the teachers what they want. Prop 75 gives the choice back to the union membership.' About one third of teachers in California are conservatives as well whose voice is stifled by a leadership that has even embraced radical causes such as are led by International Answer and radical anti—Israel groups on international issues which do not bear on working conditions for teachers. 'Union bosses are in the driver's seat, representation is not,' she continued, 'Why should union members be forced to put out hard—earned money toward candidates and issues some of the membership may even not agree with?'
And she maintains Proposition 76 would simply require California live within its means by a balanced budget. 'It would prevent the fiscal debacle we had under Governor Davis's administration, when California spent money we simply did not have.' She explained it would prevent the California Legislature from creating pork barrel programs for special interests while disregarding a balanced budget. She says, 'Governor Schwarzenegger wants to get California back on track and union members are being lied to continuously by union leadership to the detriment of all Californians.'
When she was asked to volunteer to counter protest at a rally against these propositions she enthusiastically grabbed some signs , donned a T shirt with a message supporting the Governor and a baseball cap. She arrived at the rally where about 300 service workers from the Service Workers International Union (SEIU), mostly Latinos that day, had gathered before a podium featuring LA Mayor Villagrosa and Assembly Speaker Nunez. Other volunteers who arrived earlier for the counter protest were cowed by the size of the crowd and left before she arrived.
But Genevieve refused to be deterred. As mentioned earlier, she is passionate about what she believes in. On first arriving, her heart went out to the crowd since her experience as an ESL language instructor also had her working extensively with the Latin—American community. 'Many of those present at the rally are lied to constantly. For a lot of them English is not their first language and they are trusting leaders who are not really looking out for them,' she said. 'But when I stood there listening to speaker after speaker lying to these trusting union members—not only the lies, but the misinformation, I decided I had to act.'
When she first arrived, all 5' 6' and 115 pounds of her, the crowd began booing her and hurling obscenities at her such as 'F——— you!' and calling her a 'sorry excuse for a human being.' She was confronted initially by several large men who tried to take away her signs. Some people hit her with the stakes from their signs and two men menacingly stabbed the pavement in front of her with the sharp ends laughing as they did so. One of them, a big guy named Nick, engaged her in a debate. Nick sported a shirt with a United Auto Workers logo on it (the UAW functions frequently as an affiliate of other unions like the SEIU on so—called social justice programs that are not necessarily applicable to work—related issues).
'The funny thing was it was a rational debate with him. He actually began to agree with points I made: Schools are failing. California is literally at the bottom of academic achievement in our schools despite spending half the state's budget on education. Governor Schwarzenegger has budgeted more funding for California schools than any other previous governor,' she explained.
Perhaps her side of the debate went too well earlier, because the crowd became even more hostile. They stole her hat and one even poured water down the back of her shirt. The media moved in and chants from the crowd rose up 'Grab her signs! Destroy her signs!'
Villagrosa and Nunez made no attempt to tell the crowd to stop the physical assaults and continued to stir up the crowd. 'I was actually more afraid to leave the crowd where the cameras and media were than to go to my car for fear of being attacked again,' she said.
People continued to physically assault her. Still, she felt she had to get her message out.
She was finally rescued from the crowd by a young college student who flashed his gang affiliation tattoos to get the crowd to back off. Escorting her to her car he claimed he no longer belonged to the gang, but apparently to the union members at the rally it commanded respect, something that would not be expected to be recognized at a union rally in years past. But then again, the guest speakers were both former members while in college of the Marxist Latino group MECHA that advocates the retaking of the western United States for Mexico by violent means and the dispossession of all non—Latinos. This rally was as much about race and left wing politics as about working conditions. It's a chilling indictment of what is taking political control of our unions, especially in time of war as union dues may be applied to anti—war activities or groups without the consent of the entire membership.
Four news channels showed the videos that night of the attack on Genevieve, but when she requested copies of the videos they refused without explanation. Theories for the refusal range from union pressure by television studio personnel to the political points of views of the news programming managers. But, fortunately, the attack also made it onto several Internet Weblogs.
The Republican Party and Governor's office asked for an apology for the attacks from the SEIU and the speakers. To date, none has been forthcoming. Meanwhile, Genevieve is still out campaigning for the build and reform propositions of 'Governor Arnold' as she calls him. 'All of us have to take responsibility to turn the state around,' she said.
Lee Kaplan is a contributing editor at Front Page Magazine and communications director for the United American Committee and the NortheastIntelligence Network . He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .