Ohio Teachers Union Opens Yearly Conference With Communist Ballad

OEA President Becky Higgins sings
OEA President Becky Higgins sings "If I Had a Hammer"

Ohio Education Association (OEA) President Becky Higgins began the union’s 2014 Collective Bargaining Conference this month with a performance of communist folk singer Pete Seeger’s “If I Had a Hammer.”

Higgins was elected president of OEA in 2013 and took office last fall. OEA paid Higgins’s predecessor, Patricia Frost-Brooks, $218,751 during the union’s 2013 fiscal year.

OEA Executive Director Larry Wicks, who retired last December, was paid $226,669. The teachers union positions itself as the lone voice of downtrodden public educators, but OEA officers and employees are paid an average of $100,000.

When you’re paid more than double Ohio’s median household income with money taken from teachers’ paychecks, who needs a hammer?

Year in and year out, OEA is one of Ohio’s top political spenders. Because Ohio is a forced-unionism state, OEA can have public employees fired for declining to pay union dues.

The agenda for the February 7 and February 8 OEA conference in downtown Columbus included two “Exposing Our Enemies” sessions, citing a partial enemies list of “the Koch brothers, Students First, American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), Tea Party Patriots, the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law and the Ohio School Board Leadership Council.”

“Participants will also learn how to identify allies, enemies and key players in their own communities and how to engage members and partner organizations in defeating the corporate school reform agenda,” the description for the first session explained.

The agenda promised an explanation of “why right to work arguments must be countered in order to preserve collective bargaining” in the second “Exposing Our Enemies” session.

In addition to fighting school choice and workplace freedom, OEA currently faces a class-action suit brought by educators who claim the union and its affiliates illegally used “fair share” fees taken from their paychecks for political activity and other impermissible purposes.

Based on the terms of a pending settlement, OEA will be returning money taken from teachers whose mandatory fees were misappropriated.

Channeling Pete Seeger may give union bosses a chance to pretend the union stands for “progress,” but it also provides another reminder of OEA’s devout leftism.

Last month when Seeger passed away, We Are Ohio — a front for OEA and Ohio’s other labor unionsimplored fans to “join us in remembering Pete Seeger, the legendary folk singer and advocate for working people everywhere.”

Linking to a Seeger obituary at hard-left web magazine Salon, We Are Ohio added, “Pete Seeger knew that ‘right to work’ was wrong.”

A New York Times obituary noted that Seeger, a member of the Communist Party early in his career, “later criticized himself for not having left the party sooner,” despite still describing himself as a communist in the philosophical sense.

For decades, Seeger was an apologist for the Stalin regime. Seeger first performed “If I Had a Hammer” at a Communist Party event.