The case for and against teacher unions

Doug Noon explains Why Teachers Like Me Support Unions. In doing so, he illustrates why such unions are problematic. First is avoiding explaining and denying what anyone can see on parade in such things as teacher strikes or the behaviors recently on display in Wisconsin.

In the political football game of “education reform,” teachers’ unions are blamed for putting the interests of teachers ahead of students, opposing reform measures such as merit pay and school vouchers, protecting lazy and incompetent teachers, awarding teachers unaffordable benefit packages, and contributing to the general moral and economic decline of America. Rebuttals to these charges are tedious

Teachers cannot set aside teaching that is tedious but that is what this one wants to do. The implication is that it isn’t tedious that is the problem but rather the intellectual integrity that would have to be faced in such an educational effort.

That is followed by illustrating that the public sector is isolated and removed from public sector market forces.

Before I was a public school teacher, I worked at a private school. I worked for half of the starting pay of public school teachers, and I had a part-time job as a swim instructor that I went to after school and on Saturdays. I had no retirement or health plan.

Then there are the contradictions.

I got RIFF’d after my first year because of budget shortfalls, and I was rehired over the summer. The contract language that allowed me back in helps to maintain stability in school staffing and programming, so it’s a win-win deal for teachers and kids.

The union serves to manage conflict: No union, more conflict.

The problem is that unions escalate conflict as they are, by definition, moving conflict from an individual matter to an organizational matter. That leads to another comment that illustrates the problem of identification of employer.

Union busting is bullying. We need to defend our profession and our students’ futures from the whims and delusions of politicians. If we don’t, who will?

That defense appears to be the close collusion between the public employee unions and campaign efforts to establish the election of union friendly politicians. These are the politicians who cater to union demands for above market salaries and benefits despite not having the income to support them.

He ends with the assertion that it really isn’t about being right. It is about raw power. It is a balance of class forces. The problem is that the teachers are an elite class when compared to their employer, the working public. Teachers are in the business of teaching what is moral and what is right; not how to obtain power no matter the consequence; not in promoting false class divergences to promote social unrest and envy.

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