Monday, February 27, 2012

Let's Talk Laws

Dear Readers-

I want to address a common concern/criticism that has arisen since the beginning of my blog.

Critics have suggested that my calls for action on the 29th violate the law and that all teachers who call in on Leap Day are participating in an illegal work stoppage.  We all know that Texas's labor laws are some of the most oppressive in the nation, but regardless, let us look at this criticism.

The law in question is Texas Government Code Sections 617.001 - 617.005.

617.001 - (a) Simply defines the term "labor organization" as it pertains to this section of the code.

617.002 - (a)This section states that public employees may not enter into collective bargaining agreements regarding wages, hours and conditions, and (b)any such contracts are void.  Interestingly enough, it also states that (c) a government official cannot recognize any organization as a bargaining agent for any employee group.  I wonder how the union interprets that one....

617.003 - This one is the one that really concerns us here, so I will provide this one in it's entirety before I break it down.

(a) Public employees may not strike or engage in an organized work stoppage against the state or a political subdivision of the state. (b) A public employee who violates Subsection (a) forfeits all civil 
service rights, reemployment rights, and any other rights, benefits, and privileges the employee enjoys as a result of public employment or former public employment. (c) The right of an individual to cease work may not be abridged if the individual is not acting in concert with others in an organized work stoppage.
Alright, let's go subsection by subsection.

(a) - The key in this one is the phrase "organized work stoppage."  So we can approach this from two different angles.

Pursuant to section 1 201 of the Uniform Probate Code, and organization is a group of people working together, working towards collective goals and controls its own performance.  Examples of organizations are corporations, business trusts, partnership, estate, trust, joint venture, association, or government.  Organizations can be legal or commercial identity.

"Teachers for Change" is the name of a blog, not an organization.  This is just me, and only me, fielding e-mails, posting to Facebook, doing interviews and posting on the blog.  There is no collective involvement.  So the term organization does not apply to what I am doing.

So is the sick-out organized?  What membership rosters do I have?  None.  When the media asks how many are participating, my answer is only speculation.  All I have done is share my opinions and ideas and hope others follow.

Let's look at "work stoppage."  A work stoppage is an organized cessation of work, as during a strike.  What I am proposing is a one day sick-out, not a strike.  The work of Dallas ISD will not cease, in fact, it will carry on without us present (though at an admittedly lower quality.)  In no way is the Leap Day Sick Out organized or a work stoppage.

Therefore (b) does not apply.

But if you doubt me, let's look at (c).  Concert means to arrange something by mutual arrangement or coordination.  What coordination has taken place?  Have you and I sat down and discussed plans?  Have you and I come to any personal or collective agreements?  Have any of you had any input into the posts I have put on this blog, or reviewed any of my statements? (Considering my failure to catch typos, perhaps I should have sought input...)  I have stated my peace, some of you have agreed or disagreed, but at no time have I ever used the blog to create a collaborative effort.

We are not organized.  This is not a work stoppage.  And at no time have we been in concert with each other.  Whether or not you agree, the law is law, and neither I nor any other teacher who call in on Wednesday are breaking it.

I look forward to the comments that are sure to follow.  But please, people, try to avoid personal attacks and stick to the topic at hand.  Sometimes it has been very hard to follow my rule of not deleting comments. I love dialogue.  I cannot tolerate stupidity.

617.004 - This is the "right to work" portion of Texas law.  People cannot be denied employment because they do not belong to a labor organization.

617.005 - This section protects the rights of employees rights to present grievances about wages, conditions and hours (such as what I have been doing).

If you want to see the code in its entirety, click here.

Sorry for the long post, but one last note.  Thursday, March 1st is a National Day of Action for Education.  When you came back to work on Thursday, I would encourage you to come clad in black to demonstrate your support for those fighting to improve our nation's education system.

Thank you,

Mr. Jones.


  1. ok, your comment on spell check got this post I would like to point out that your said your piece, in peace, either way I got it.
    The law is clear Jones, but rest assured there is someone out there trying their best to find a loophole to nail someone with. Standing up and fighting individually, even if its at the same time, will get a very strong message across.
    And based on this law, why is the union collecting 'dues' on behalf of a group of public servants?

  2. I suggest you ask an attorney for an interpretation of the law. I did and his conclusion was very different than yours. You Mr. Jones, as an individual, call for this work stoppage. The existence of your blog and your public comments through the media constitute coordination. Don't take my word for it - as an attorney.

  3. Fine..... call in sick. The district needs to cut staff and that would give them an excuse without having to pay any severence. Thanks for doing your part in helping with the district's finances. Also, you would get unemployment payments since you were fired for cause.

  4. Sorry.... meant to say you would NOT get unemployment.

  5. Mr. Jones, you may be eloquent and passionate and you may sound logical but you are clearly misinformed. You are calling for a work stoppage and are encouraging others to do so by use of the media which constitutes "coordination". - Dallas Labor Lawyer

    1. This is NOT his first attempt at doing misinformed things like this