Monday, July 03, 2006

Take Back America for Working People (Including Teachers)

Today, we're all getting ready to celebrate Independence Day. Perhaps, as President Bush suggests, there are those who hate freedom, but I'm not among them.

That's why I vehemently oppose efforts to weaken the free press via the absurd but very dangerous vilification of the New York Times. If the Times, often guilty of timidity rather than audacity, were to go down (God forbid), the rest of the fourth estate would fall like so many dominoes. Without a free press, there can be no democracy.

Another hallmark of any successful democracy is a vibrant middle class. I'm afraid that huge, unnecessary, and unconscionable tax cuts for Paris Hilton promote no such thing, nor do the staggering debts we're passing on to our children (in order to fund those cuts). Even folks like Ben Stein are beginning to question such policies.

Also worthy of attention is this--the systematic decline in unions (not to mention the abysmal and shameful minimum wage), bodes ill for teachers, as well as the overwhelming majority of working Americans.

One way to promote unionism in this country is through neutral card checks. Rather than going through the grueling and personally risky process of organizing a vote, employees could simply and anonymously indicate their preferences for or against unionization. Such a process may have precluded the ordeal of Nicole Byrne Lau, fired from a charter for having the temerity to tell her colleagues how much UFT teachers earned.

There's some controversy about whether forced unionization is a good idea for charters. Personally, I think it is. However, I think an agreement to run neutral anonymous card checks would be a great compromise. Such an agreement would be an excellent prerequisite to raising the cap on charters.

If the charter supporters opposed such a step, it would be a simple conclusion they opposed unions. If opponents failed to accept it, it would clearly indicate a reflexive opposition to charters. Let's see who blinks first.

Personally, I think any individual voting against unionization is too stupid to teach, but while I wouldn't put my kid in a non-union school, I'd be willing to live with the results of any free and fair election.

Eva Moskowitz, who still thinks NYC teachers are contractually prohibited from doing lunch duty (!), would not be pleased. Clearly Mistress Eva does not regard keeping informed as a worthwhile pastime for self-styled educators. Eva, dead-set on avenging her recent loss at the polls, is talking up her yet-to-open charter, and positioning herself to be the next Republican candidate for NYC Mayor. She plans to make union-busting job number one, with the UFT her first and foremost target.

Eva supported the 8-page contract cooked up by Chancellor Klein which eviscerated every right gained by the UFT since its inception, and proudly composed a single-page contract for her charter employees that would subject them to the same abuse and indignity suffered by Ms. Lau.

Teachers are one of the last bastions of unionism in this country. We must stand up for ourselves. Rather than allowing demagogues like Moskowitz to weaken us, we must become stronger, lending our strength and resolve to all who work in our country.

Let's have workers, rather than the likes of Eva Moskowitz, decide whether they want unions. Let's give our children more, rather than fewer options. Let's give them the means to support themselves, let's give them access to health care, let's make their lives better than ours, and let's stop the lunacy of mortgaging their future to comfort the comfortable.

It's the American Way.

Update: Eduwonk has finally weighed in on the charter from hell that fired Nicole Byrne Lau. He endorses the option of unionization but feels charters are no different from other businesses. I couldn't agree more, and that's why we need more to stop union-busting everywhere.
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