Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Striking Teachers in Pittsburgh -- now without a contract -- loom larger for early 2008

Here is some dirt about an important player in the Pittsburgh school landscape. I don't find this to be too, too, too bad. Union workers have a long tradition of being part of the 'company' and being on 'leave.' Railroad, steel workers and others in other unions and in other industries have been working on behalf of the members while NOT doing the day-to-day job of the rank-and-file.

John Tarka might not be elected by his union members. If that was the case, he'd go back to the classroom, I'd assume.

John Tarka should be getting the same benefits, such as retirement, as the people he represents. Then his deal is like their deal. So, I'm not as outraged as the dirt digging from Simon. But, this is worthy of general knowledge.
Message from Simon (part 1, but not in timeline order)

Dear members of the media (covering the Pittsburgh teacher contract dispute),

With the assistance of Union President, John Tarka, strike authorization was recently issued by the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers (PFT). If there is a strike in the Pittsburgh school district it will be the biggest teacher strike in Pennsylvania in over 15 years (28,000 students, 2,600 teachers). In response to this threat, StopTeacherStrikes, Inc. has publicly posted the individual names & salaries of all Pittsburgh teachers, alongside census data and teacher union campaign contributions at its web site ( Direct link:

There is interesting new information emerging about PFT President, John Tarka. Below is communication with Pittsburgh school district officials. Christopher Berdnick is the Business Manager & Ira Weiss is the district solicitor - please feel free to verify this information with these sources.

John Tarka is listed as a Pittsburgh public employee being paid a salary of $77,800 while on "special assignment". As seen below, his special assignment is working for the private organization called the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers. And he's been on this "assignment" for the last 24 years. Here is how it works:

- Tarka is paid his salary every year by the school district and gets annual raises per the union contract (CBA) just like any other teacher

- Tarka receives pension benefits and accrues years of service from the school district just like any other teacher

- Tarka puts in for annual leave every year which gets automatically approved

- The Union reimburse the school district each year for the cost of Tarka's salary/pension benefits while he is on leave

- The Union separately pay Tarka an additional $20,000/year as reported on their federal LM2 disclosure form

So we have the amazing situation where PFT Union President, John Tarka, is able to "use" a public school district while actually working for the union ... thus moving towards a fully vested, taxpayer-funded, guaranteed defined-benefit pension for the rest of his life. At retirement he'll go straight onto the taxpayer's dime, even though he hasn't taught in the Pittsburgh school district in 24 years. It is outrageous.

It is one more example of the abusive power of the teachers' union in Pennsylvania. If John Tarka is not working for the school district then he should be on union payroll and his pension should be private and linked to his work for the union, and not to his non-work for the school district.

PFT union president, John Tarka, has no moral authority to be involved in issuing strike threats inside the Pittsburgh school district. Because Tarka stands to personally gain from additional public monies spent on teacher benefits, yet he is not even teaching at Pittsburgh.

Simon Campbell
President, StopTeacherStrikes Inc.
668 Stony Hill Rd. #298
Yardley, PA 19067
Tel: 215-586-3573

--- Original Message ---
From: "Berdnik, Christopher"
To: Simon Campbell
Cc: Weiss, Ira
Sent: Wed, 2 Jan 2008 08:54:36 -0500
Subject: RE: Question about John Tarka

1. Yes
2. I do not believe so under the language in the CBA
3. Yes
4. Yes

-----Original Message-----
From: Simon Campbell []
Sent: Friday, December 28, 2007 1:41 PM
To: Berdnik, Christopher
Cc: Weiss, Ira
Subject: RE: Question about John Tarka

Wow. Does it require school board approval each year to keep his annual leave going? Does the school board have the legal right to say "no" to his leave request and require that he return to the classroom?

My presumption is that Mr. Tarka has been getting annual raises per the CBA as an employee since 1984? And I also assume that his years on leave count as years of service for the purpose of calculating his pension benefits?

Simon Campbell
President, StopTeacherStrikes Inc.
668 Stony Hill Rd. #298
Yardley, PA 19067
Tel: 215-586-3573

On Fri, 28 Dec 2007 13:36:02 -0500, Berdnik, Christopher wrote:

Mr. Tarka has been on a leave for union business since 8/23/1984, and applies every school year to be on a leave for that period.
As a side note, I don't think that Pgh Public Schools has that many students in the district as stated above.


Pittsburgh talk radio, Marty Griffin, discusses Pittsburgh Union President John Tarka's "sweetheart deal" (Tarka calls in to speak!):

Central PA talk radio, Bob Durgin, on same topic:


Mark Rauterkus said...

Some notes:

One of Mr. Tarka's students emailed to say that he was a GREAT Engligh Teacher at Westinghouse.

Plus, the strike possibilities seem much less than before. That's good news.

Time will tell.

Jonathan Potts said...

That's the same arrangement the district had with Al Fondy, who had been a math teacher.

Anonymous said...

I don't get it. How can there be anything other than outrage? How can anyone think it is OK to receive a public employee pension plan for years spent working for a private organization? Because what ...he's "entitled" to it? Great. I'll go represent some teachers and have the taxpayers give me a pension then!

Mark Rauterkus said...

The guy is a teacher first. Then he gets elected by the fellow teachers. But, rather than be in the classroom, he does the business of the union. And, the salary is paid back to the school by the union to take his place from the classroom.

In academics, this happens all the time.

Same too with business.

For example, I might have an ORACLE programmer that works for a XYZ company. But, Alcoa needs a programmer. They sub-contract with XYZ. The person is hired (rented) by Alcoa -- but still works for XYZ. When the gig at Alcoa ends, the person returns to his XYZ job and still has his benefits, 401k, etc.

You can't represent teachers because the teachers didn't vote for YOU. And, you are not a teacher.

He isn't entitled to it. He won their election. He has a leadership duty with the union.

There is another express -- 'eat your own dog food.' That is a software slogan. Tarka's pension should be the same as what he bargains for.

I didn't make up the system. But, I can understand it.

Anonymous said...


quick question doesnt all of the union officals all take a leave from the pps school district

Mark Rauterkus said...

I don't know.

I would guess that there are some union officials who are NOT teachers. A secretary, for example, might be hired to do clerical work of the union brass -- and NOT be a teacher on leave.

However, I'm sure that there are plenty of union officials (even elected ones) who are still teaching too. There are committees and such. Even some union folks might be 'retired' teachers.

But, I'm not any expert. Heck, the union often does NOT want to talk to me when I'm in elections. :/

Anonymous said...

Pittsburgh talk radio, Marty Griffin, discusses Pittsburgh Union President John Tarka's "sweetheart deal" (Tarka calls in to speak!):

Central PA talk radio, Bob Durgin, on same topic:

flying corn said...

I can't imagine a good reason for outrage. Officers of the PFT serve for only as long as the members elect them. If the members stop electing the officers, then the officers would return to the classroom. The leadership of the PFT has been stable, but there are no guarantees. Other locals have seen dramatic changes. While doing union work, the union officers' salary and benefits are paid with union dollars--not taxpayer dollars. The only taxpayer dollars in John Tarka's pension will be for his years of teaching.