Sunday, July 30, 2006

Storms in Teacups

There are a lot of words flying around about the UFT's threat of no contract-no work. They made themselves a target with that threat. First of all, the threat is bogus.

It's utter nonsense, in fact, designed to persuade rank-and-file that Unity means business, which is only true if you interpret that to mean "business-as-usual." And it's utterly irresponsible of self-serving Unity hacks to toss around idle threats. Every good teacher knows the folly of making threats you're not prepared to follow through.

The fact is Unity values the dues checkoff far more than the well-being of teachers, kids, or anyone on God's green earth. How could they sit around the UFT office and collect 6 figures a year, and go on all-expenses-paid junkets to Hawaii or the west coast without our money?

Still, by arrogantly exercising their mouths before engaging their brains, they've given the folks with whom they constantly argue a lot to talk about. I'd like to particularly address a very clever point made by Joe Williams of The Chalkboard.

Joe's out of sorts because the charter cap has been reached, and he says Sheldon Silver won't raise it unless they agree to unionize new charters. Personally, I support unionizing new charters. I'd settle, however, for a card check, in which the teachers could vote on whether or not they want union.

Joe makes a stronger point, though, inspired by the empty threats of the self-serving UFT leadership. Don't hold your breath for a substantive response from Unity hacks:

When teachers, school boards, and the general public were first pitched the merits of collective bargaining in the 1960's and 1970's, it was supposed to be one of the grandest win-wins of all time...

So... what happened? In places like NYC that have had collective bargaining for 40 years, teachers are still pissed off...

Is this the best we can do for teachers and students?? Is it possible there is a better way to do this??

First of all, "collective bargaining" does not traditionally entail the Taylor Law, which is designed to cripple labor's power to negotiate. One result of the Taylor Law, which imposes draconian penalties on employees but none whatsoever on management, is that contract negotiations drag on for years. Why should the city sign? Better to wait a few years, and save up for stadiums.

Not only are teachers pissed off at this sort of treatment, but so are cops, firefighters, and virtually all city workers, except those of DC37, who seem to revel in more work for less pay. Of course when you consider their documented history of fraudulent contract votes, that may not be the case. It got very brief press coverage, though, and did not seem to outrage the otherwise perpetually incensed Mayor Giuliani.

You don't see this sort of anger in suburban schools, which actually grant cost-of-living raises to employees.

If you consider what city teachers made before unionization, which I've read in today's dollars would be around $14,000, you see that, despite what the UFT has rotted into, teachers do far better today. If you read about Nicole Byrne Lau, you see that there are definite benefits to unionization. Ms. Lau, no fool, vowed never to work in a non-union shop again.

There is a better way, and it begins by voting out the folks who currently own our union. Like the folks who run our country, they shun democracy. When the will of the union threatens them, they simply change the rules to suit themselves. High school teachers voting non-Unity? Throw their votes into a larger pool. Stop voting for Unity employees and let the Prez hand-pick 'em. Like the folks who run our country, prison is where they belong.

Still, even with their bag of dirty tricks, they're gonna have to do better to get re-elected. For anyone curious about available alternatives to union, check out Klein's 8-page contract, which leaves us with no rights whatsoever. Of course we can do better.

But it's not gonna happen until we toss out the monopoly leadership.
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