Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Anti-Union BS: Let's Call a Spade a Spade

The current situation in Wisconsin (and elsewhere) is interesting.  An anti-union governor and legislature proposed legislation that would, among other things, severely weaken the collective bargaining rights of teachers.  

This battle between unions and the anti-union crowd is not new.  It has existed since workers first began uniting.  Any time you have two groups with competing interests, you have conflict.  In Wisconsin, it's not the battle that troubles me.  It's the rhetoric.

Both of the political parties involved have made the claim that they are taking their respective sides for the betterment of the kids.  This is bullshit.  

Both sides are simply pandering to the groups that are most likely going to help them get reelected.  Republicans want to weaken unions because organized labor typically supports their opposition.  Weaken the union, lessen your opponent's coffers.

Democrats pander to the union for the exact opposite reason.  Organized labor supports Democratic candidates.  Strengthen (or in this case protect) the power of unions and you increase your ability to get reelected.

Political parties are organizations.  As I mentioned a few months ago, the primary goal of any organization is to keep the organization alive.  The battle being played out in the Wisconsin Legislature's rotunda has nothing to do with the welfare of kids.  It's a political pissing match.  

Of course, this brings up the question of devaluing teacher pay and benefits, which is the stated goal of the Republicans.  This battle, like the organized labor battle, has been fought for years.  

The arguments are familiar- one side wants to see teacher pay and benefits cut because it is a major expense.  Schools cost taxpayer money.  An easy way to reduce this cost is to cut personnel costs.

On the other side, if teaching is devalued too much, the motivation to become or remain a teacher erodes.  Why bother with an already-difficult career that requires a high degree of entry level education and never-ending continuing education if the pay and benefits suck?  Who would be attracted to the profession? 

Walmart developed a pretty good anti-union system where employee benefits and pay are at or near the bottom of their profession.  Look how successful that organization has become.  Is this the model we want our public schools to replicate?

If we are really concerned about the students, we need to seriously consider a complete overhaul of our education system.  Any ideas?


1 comment:

  1. I'm a former union member(not a teacher), who was less than impressed with how my union operated.

    I like most of the points that you made, don't have any answers on how to overhaul ths system.

    One thing that bothers me in my district though, is that the newest teachers make just a pittance...something obviously that the union agrees to, while other teachers who don't seem any better than their younger counterparts, can make twice as much. This sort of system has to devalue the newest members of the profession.