Thirty-one years ago last month, Ronald Reagan went from mild-mannered politician to superhero in the Conservative Justice League. That was the day he busted the PATCO union, and forever showed organized labor that they could dare to cross him, but only at their own peril.
The conservative line on unionization is simple: organize and bargain collectively if you choose, but you cannot and will not order work stoppages that can halt the business of the federal government.
Chicago politics is about as far from the conservative line as one can get, but you have to wonder if somewhere in the back of his mind, the left-wing power broker who just so happens to be the mayor wishes he could channel a little more Reagan right now and a lot less President Obama.
The fact that he served as Obama’s chief of staff is one of the little ironies facing Mayor Rahm Emanuel as he finds himself neck deep in one of the most destructive and controversial work stoppages in recent Chicago history.
An election year teacher’s strike in Chicago? This kind of thing is not supposed to happen to the president’s whiz kid who is now calling the shots in one of the strongest Democrat cities since, well, since ever.
The reasons for the strike are numerous. Some demands are reasonable, others are ludicrous, but if anyone thinks that putting tens of thousands of school age children at loose ends while the grown ups work out their issues is a good idea, then I would advise you to stop reading the column right now. Such a stupendously selfish person needs to tend to more pressing business, like trying to figure out how to cheat at church bingo or something.
While I do not think the issues in Chicago justify a work stoppage, it does give me a moment to suggest to local teachers that the folks up north do bear a bit of study. Pay attention, destructive habits aside; these Chicago teachers can teach you locals a few things about bringing some needed attention to areas of concern.
In the 30 years I have been working in Augusta media, there is no single group of employees that I have witnessed more put upon (within the legal confines of permissible behavior) and taken for granted than educators. It is not so much about wages and benefits as it is work environment and communication.
Education system bureaucrats tend to hide, lie, obfuscate and grandstand worse than any other single management class in the area, and the genuine fear and distrust many educators feel toward their central office staff and, yes, elected school board officials in certain areas is palpable.
The atmosphere seemed to gin up a while back as virtually all the major school systems established their own public safety divisions, which at best are often used as an excuse to keep real cops off campus (no one likes all that nasty publicity) and at worse can be akin to mini-Gestapo forces, flexing muscles that don’t need to be flexed, and intimidating staff and students alike.
I do not and will not advocate that the teachers of Georgia and South Carolina attempt to form unions that could actively strike against systems over wage issues. However, they need representatives that can expose workplace shenanigans in a way that will not put whistleblowers in jeopardy.
Recent examples could include several pooh-poohed episodes that only came to criminal prosecution when parents (and undercover informant staffers) alerted the media as to the seriousness of the offenses. Does the Charlie Rape Gang situation ring a bell?
Also, the public needs to know when well-meaning legislation (No Child Left Behind and/or The Americans With Disabilities Act) perverts common sense and leads to a disrupted school environment and a completely uneven approach to justice, fair play and decency.
For instance, a 17-year-old student who recently threatened teachers, students and the campus in general with deadly violence has been allowed back in the classroom because his parents insist his mental disorder is a medical disability. They insist they will invoke their legal options if the boy is not put back in place after a few days off.
One wonders how “a few days off” would have helped Dylan Klebold, Eric Harris or Seung-Hui Cho.
Teachers are livid… L-I-V-I-D over the issue, and one parent tells me her son is almost ready to jump the boy just to protect his friends and get the guy thrown out of school (sadly, along with himself) permanently. It probably doesn’t help matters that the boy’s Facebook profile features a photo of him wearing a mask and holding a gun, Columbine style. You folks getting the picture?
The teachers at this particular school could sure use an advocate. They have been threatened with their jobs if anyone breathes a word about the situation. If they had an ombudsman, perhaps a retired teacher or administrator who was not on the county payroll, who could alert parents and politicians to these concerns, perhaps action and a solution could be forthcoming.
So am I suggesting a union? Let this unbalanced student cause one more problem and I will personally fly Jimmy Hoffa, Jr. to town to organize one.
But seriously, while they do not need the power to strike, local teachers do need the power of full disclosure and public discourse on their side. The parents of the system cannot be concerned about serious problems when they have no way of knowing they exist. And boy, do they exist!You Might Also Like: