Union baiting equals hating

A couple of months ago, I heard Joel Klein, head of New York's Department of Education, blame the teachers' union contract for the fact that there are a lot of Jewish holidays on the school calendar. (This was at a community meeting in Harlem, called because of distress over the push for charter schools and dissatisfaction with the situation in the local public schools.)

At the time, I thought, "how low can you sink?" Now, I'm not saying the question was necessarily inspired by anti-Semitism, but it could have been interpreted that way. And for Klein to link that ugly and divisive ideology with union-baiting is simply outrageous, especially in this town, with its large Jewish population that has made tremendous contributions to every democratic advance, from workers' rights (think Clara Lemlich and the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire) to the Civil Rights movement (think Cheney and Schwerner).

Anyway, it turns out Klein can sink lower: he and his boss, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, are now blaming the union for the fact that many younger teachers could be laid off if the budget cuts go through. The union's seniority rules are the problem, they say.

Like a magician, who waves a wand with one hand so that you don't look at what he's doing with the other, Klein and Bloomberg are trying to trick people into blaming seniority rules (which most working people support!) and not at the real problem, which is the proposal to cut education funding in the first place.

Governor Paterson and Bloomberg are trying to solve the state and city budget crises via "belt-tightening" for the working class, with brutal cuts to everything from libraries to bus and subway service, to day care slots, school programs and more.

The inability to find money for public services is not a law of nature - it's a political decision. But to keep people from challenging and organizing against this decision, they point the finger at the unions.

So back to Chancellor Klein's anti-UFT comments: blaming the teachers' union is just plain wrong, whether it's for the Jewish holidays, or for the impact the proposed funding cuts will have on the public schools.

Attacking the teachers' union is not new, but it certainly has heated up recently, mixed into the national debate about education reform, test scores, NCLB, and charter schools. Underlying some of it is the idea that teachers are different from other workers, and that unions aren't appropriate in schools.

So I asked some friends who are teachers, "why do teachers need a union?"

One friend who is in her third year of teaching said, "because unions give a voice to the people who have the most knowledge of what goes on in schools and the greatest impact on student achievement."

An interesting take - so it's not just about taking care of their own wages and benefits, in case that's what anyone thought.

Along those same lines, another teacher said this: "With all the talk of school reform these days it's amazing that the most important stakeholders - students, their families and teachers - are being shut out of the conversation. Parents are blamed for bad parenting and teachers are blamed for bad teaching. We need a union to help voice the perspective of the teachers who work tirelessly to provide a quality public education to our students."

And finally, a third pointed out that among the many reasons teachers need a union, "two stand out: first, unions and contracts actually benefit students (ie, limiting class size, defining professional duties) and second, educators need protection from abusive, vindictive administrators (ie, retaliation related to politics, favoritism, taking undue advantage), as can happen in any workplace."

The teachers union, the transit workers union, public and health care workers unions, and scores of others - together, these institutions have protected and raised living standards for millions of New Yorkers and their families. The city needs the jobs and services, and it also needs the unions that protect those who perform them.

 

 

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  • DO AMERICANS KNOW WHAT UNION MEANS?

    they are so busy with self, how could they know?

    SLAVERYIS ALIVE AND WELL BECAUSE OF SELF FIRST AND RACISM

    SO WORK 365 DAYS A YEAR AT A $ A DAY

    AFTER ALL IT WAS UNIONS THAT GOT WORKERS 8 HOUR DAY/ 40 HOUR WEEK
    AND 6 DAYS OFF FOR HOLIDAY
    THOSE THAT HAVE CHRISTMAS OFF SHOULD READ

    Bible Exodus 20..and follow The Law..

    but than can they read?

    Posted by j. h, 06/14/2010 1:02pm (4 years ago)

  • Shutting out the teacher's union, community activists, students and their parents is a very old and cynical strategy of top down neo-liberals and conservatives alike. The question is what will the union(s) do about it?

    Labor Education boss Arne Duncan along with President Obama have taken some very ugly swipes at public school teachers and their unions. This is by design and NOT by error as some would have us believe.

    This same anti-labor attitude was expressed by some White House "aides" hiding behind anonynmity recently when corporatists Blanche Lincoln narrowly defeated labor backed Gov. Halter for the Senate position in Arkansas. Obama and the Democratic hacks backed Lincoln and were not happy with labor's endorsement of Halter.

    The labor movement (including rank & file along with leadership) must stop and look at what is occuring in this country. The democrats make a lot of promises but have yet to make good on EFCA, bank regulation, jobs and other sorely needed changes. We know that the history of the Republicans shows whose side they are on...but the DP is proving that it is not any better!

    The late Tony Mazzochi from the OCAW (now a part of the steelworkers union) advocated for an independent political movement/party for working people. Such an idea was good 15 years ago and needed now more than ever! The LP, DSA, Greens, CP and disenfranchised democrats have the potential to put together a party that is truly pro-worker, pro-clean environment and anti-corporation. The ball is clearly in our court!

    Posted by Pancho Valdez, 06/10/2010 5:09pm (4 years ago)

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