In the Netflix show House of Cards, powerful labor unions were able to temporarily threaten an event sponsored by the spouse of fictional South Carolina Congressman Frank Underwood.
Labor unions were irrationally opposed to an education reform bill sponsored by Underwood that would have diminished their stranglehold on the country’s government-run school system. Under threat of a walk-out, unions were able to leverage a posh Washington, DC hotel from hosting the event, forcing Underwood and his wife to get creative in their effort to continue the fundraiser for her organization.
While entirely a work of fiction, sometimes Hollywood can foreshadow events that actually happen in the real world. Unfortunately, a conservative organization recently learned that first hand.
FreedomWorks, an organization with strong ties to the grassroots and Tea Party movement, has worked hard recently to raise awareness to the Obama Administration’s Common Core Standard Initiative. This initiative, strongly backed by teachers unions and other organizations, would erode state and local control and further nationalize education standards.
In an effort to raise awareness to the problems with increasing federal government involvement in education, FreedomWorks is planning to assist and provide activist training to concerned parents who plan to protest a pro-Common Core conference in Orlando, Florida at the end of this month.
According to TheBlaze, FreedomWorks booked rooms and meeting space last week at the Ritz-Carlton Orlando Grande Lakes, a hotel located near the pro-Common Core conference, only to have their reservation canceled and money refunded days later.
The hotel cited security concerns as the reason for the cancellation, denying any influence from outside groups. Whitney Neal, a former teacher who now works as Director of Grassroots at FreedomWorks, isn’t buying that explanation.
“What I think happened is, basically, supporters of Common Core got wind of the protest and complained to the hotel,” surmised Neal.
When asked about labor union involvement, Neal said, “We know that they have received grants and funding to promote the Obama Administration’s initiative and will be participating in the pro-Common Core conference.”
She noted that Florida received $700 million in federal grants, funded via the 2009 stimulus bill, to implement Common Core. Some of those funds were doled out to groups to promote the initiative. For example, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the National Education Association (NEA) received a total of $6.3 million to promote Common Core.
Though not a union, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Educational Excellence supports Common Core and has received more than $500,000 to promote the initiative. This organization’s website is riddled with articles in favor of the initiative and occasional jabs at the anti-Common Core crowd.
Neal noted that this sort of backlash is all too familiar. She said that concerned parents and activists have repeatedly been met with heavy resistance when they’ve tried to engage elected officials about these standards, citing a recent incident during a local school board meeting in Florida as an example.
“Activists who oppose Common Core were harassed and threatened with arrest as they passed out literature. They were trying to raise awareness to the consequences of Common Core,” explained Neal. “They were told they had to leave without explanation.”
The good news is that FreedomWorks has found an alternative venue, but the organization is withholding the name of the location. “I’m having people email me if they want to come,” she said.