In this series about email spam that regularly shows up in teachers’ work cyber-boxes, Grumpy Old Teacher (GOT) has looked at typical pieces like survey invitations (Junk Mail) and professional development come-ons (Junk Mail, Again.) In this third piece, it’s time to look at a type of spam that targets teachers in particular–the union-busting message.
Let’s quote the message in full:
Why do people choose to join a union? Typically, it’s to secure better working conditions, get a better deal from your employer, or have a workplace representative that has their back when things get tough. A well-functioning union should represent the interests of all their members and stand behind them.
Do you feel like the Florida Education Association (FEA) is living up to your expectations?
When management unilaterally imposes working conditions, it’s the unions job to push back and protect their members.
Is your union just paying lip service or are they standing up for you?
If you believe that they are not on your side, you have options. Removing your bi-weekly financial donation to them is a powerful motivator to take you seriously. It’s time to play hard ball.From Samuel Cohen or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Look at the email address and no, don’t think for a moment that the person’s name is real. But ‘optouttoday’? That’s a slick move to co-opt the wellknown name of the anti-testing movement, Opt Out. In Florida, see here.
Opt out of testing? Opt out of your union. In particular, the Florida Education Association, the statewide umbrella organization that union locals join for the purpose of organizing collective action across the state.
But hold the phone! No one joins the FEA directly. Teachers join their local unions, who in turn belong to the FEA. The FEA is funded by the locals, who remit a specified percentage of local dues to the FEA.
It’s a funny appeal that lacks this basic knowledge. No one makes a bi-weekly donation directly to FEA. So why does the email target FEA and not the locals?
In the interest of research, GOT went to look at their website and received this message from Malwarebytes:
Website blocked due to reputation
Malwarebytes Browser Guard blocks pages that come from websites with relatively light traffic and have been reported to have malicious activity. If you trust this website, please click CONTINUE TO SITE. Otherwise, choose GO BACK.
But fools rush in … the site seems to have been created in the wake of the Janus decision. It is the brain child of the Freedom Foundation. The light traffic is most likely due to the fact that the site seems ancient (at least, in internet years.) And it’s full of propaganda, like the calculator that will try to show you how much your union dues would be better invested in a retirement plan at 6% interest.
Darla (also most likely a fake name paired with a fake quote) shows up on every page thanking them for telling her about her ability to opt out of union dues. They couldn’t find another person? Or are they merely lazy and thinking teachers are too dumb to notice?
So why the spam email now? Years ago, when GOT was a child and the nation worried about a nuclear war with the Soviet Union, he remembers adults saying that both nations had programmed their computers to retaliate. Long after everyone was dead, the computers would continue to fire nuclear missiles at each other.
That’s what this spam reminds him of. Long after its time has passed, the Optouttoday website’s bots keep firing off messages to annoy teachers who are moving through a busy day and limited planning period time.
Not a great way to promote a failing cause.
PS: For a laugh, know this about the Freedom Foundation and their high-handed morality: During the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, the group received assistance between $350,000 and $1 million in federally backed small business loans from Commencement Bank as part of the Paycheck Protection Program. The nonprofit stated it would allow them to retain 82 jobs. Their loan was seen as notable, since they campaign against excess government spending and are small-government advocates. The Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat noted that the Freedom Foundation has “been rallying against government spending and taxes since the early 1990s”, and noting the organization’s website states “We have a vision of a day when opportunity, responsible self-governance, and free markets flourish in America because its citizens understand and defend the principles from which freedom is derived. We accept no government support.”
(Source: Wikipedia. Scroll to the end.)