Saturday, April 13, 2019

The Janus People Are Really Saying "Give Yourself a Handicap"

They'll use the words give yourself a raise, but that's far from what they want for you. They want you to cut your legs out from under yourself so you're at their mercy. If you buy their line, you are not well-enough informed to teach children. By hobbling yourself, you place their future at risk as well.

Teachers are underpaid in 39 states, and we aren't one of them, being among the highest paid teachers in the country. With all the nonsense we endure, we're in a better place than many or most of our brothers and sisters all over America. There are powerful forces that want to move us backward.

Janus didn't happen because workers were being abused by greedy union leaders. It happened because right-wing ideologues don't wish to have the uber-wealthy inconvenienced by having public funds pay decent salaries or provide reasonable benefits to working people. Janus himself was rewarded with a ticket to the gravy train, working for the thugs who used his name to hobble public service unions.

Imperfect though union is, it's a bulwark against those that would have us begging for scraps. There has been a systemic degradation of the teaching profession, for years now, in the United States. Whenever more money is required for tax breaks for those who least need them, teachers are an easy target in most of the country.

The ongoing red state teacher rebellion is far from over, and a direct outgrowth of the right's contempt for working people. While it behooves us to support the efforts of our brother and sister teachers, we also need to make sure we don't fall as far back as they have. You'd think that couldn't happen in New York, but I was pretty shocked to see it happen in Wisconsin. If Donald Trump can be President of the United States, just about anything is possible. 

People are going to come to your door and say give yourself a raise. Don't pay union dues. They'll make it appear noble. Save your money and buy school supplies for your students, they'll say. Before I even get into their true motivation, why the hell should you be buying school supplies for your students at all? That's a separate issue, but how are we going to fight it if we give in to the cynical demagogues who want you to give up your power for a bag of silver?

In places where union has been degraded in the way our opponents wish to see us, teachers need to choose between taking their children to the doctor and having their teeth fixed. They need to hold second and third jobs to make ends meet. Make no mistake, this is precisely what these people who come to your door have in mind for you.

This year we've won parental leave, a less odious evaluation system, and some better ways to deal with complaints. We are on an upward spiral. Of course that can be reversed rather quickly if we weaken ourselves. I don't know what I'll say when the Janus people come to my door, but I wouldn't want to be on the receiving end of it.
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