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Modern School

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Member since: Sun Dec 12, 2010, 01:09 PM
Number of posts: 794

Journal Archives

Record Profits and Declining Living Standards, Again

For the second year in a row (and despite the continuation of high unemployment rates), American corporations posted record profits ($1.97 trillion for the 3rd quarter of 2011, according to the Huffington Post). At the same time, pay, benefits and living standards for the majority of Americans declined.

The connection should be obvious. As bosses downsize their businesses, throwing more and more workers into the unemployment lines or compelling them to accept lower wages in exchange for protection from unemployment, those lucky enough to have jobs are being forced to worker harder, faster and longer (productivity increased by 3.2% during the 3rd quarter of 2011). As a result, companies are spending less on labor and getting higher productivity as a result. (At least they were until this most recent quarter, when productivity actually declined by nearly 1%, probably because they have people working so hard and long they are burning out or deliberately slowing down out of exhaustion or frustration).

The AFL-CIO Executive Paywatch list found that average compensation for S&P 500 CEOs was $12.9 million in 2011, a 13.9% increase over 2010, which itself saw a 22.8% increase over 2009. Real wages for workers fell by 2%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The average CEO took home 380 times more than the average wage of their employees. 30 years ago they only took home 42 times as much as their employees. (See www.news-record.com)

Modern School
http://modeducation.blogspot.com/2012/06/record-profits-and-declining-living.html
Posted by Modern School | Thu Jun 7, 2012, 07:44 PM (0 replies)

Teachers and staff at the Youth Connection Leadership Academy have filed an unfair labor complaint


Teachers and staff at the Youth Connection Leadership Academy have filed an unfair labor complaint with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board claiming the organization that runs the school decided to close it the day after teachers voted to form a union. The teachers have been joined in their complaint by the Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff, the American Federation of Teachers and the AFL-CIO, according to the Chicago Tribune.

As one would expect, the school says their decision has nothing to do with the organizing effort by teachers. However, it is precisely the lack of unions, the ability to hire and fire at will, keep wages and benefits low and work demands high, that make charter schools attractive to investors and politicians.

Modern School
http://modeducation.blogspot.com/2012/06/teachers-file-complaint-against-union.html
Posted by Modern School | Thu Jun 7, 2012, 07:43 PM (0 replies)

Teachers File Complaint Against Union-Busting Chi-Town Charter


Teachers and staff at the Youth Connection Leadership Academy have filed an unfair labor complaint with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board claiming the organization that runs the school decided to close it the day after teachers voted to form a union. The teachers have been joined in their complaint by the Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff, the American Federation of Teachers and the AFL-CIO, according to the Chicago Tribune.

As one would expect, the school says their decision has nothing to do with the organizing effort by teachers. However, it is precisely the lack of unions, the ability to hire and fire at will, keep wages and benefits low and work demands high, that make charter schools attractive to investors and politicians.

Modern School
http://modeducation.blogspot.com/2012/06/teachers-file-complaint-against-union.html
Posted by Modern School | Thu Jun 7, 2012, 07:42 PM (0 replies)

Brown’s Millionaire’s Tax, A Gift to Private Charter Schools

89% of Gov. Jerry Brown’s “Millionaire’s” tax is slated to go to K-12 education, should the bill be approved by California voters in November. However, according to journalist Danny Weil, the legislation allows this money to go to private charter schools or to the private contractors hired by nonprofit charters. (You can see Weil discussing this on YouTube by clicking &feature=youtu.be.)

Modern School
http://modeducation.blogspot.com/2012/06/browns-millionaires-tax-gift-to-private.html
Posted by Modern School | Wed Jun 6, 2012, 11:21 PM (3 replies)

Chicago Teacher Strike Vote Today

Chicago teachers are taking a strike vote today. While the vote will not necessarily lead to a strike, it is the next step required before a union-sanctioned and legal strike may begin. It is also likely to pass, as strike votes are generally preceded by straw polls to gauge members’ readiness for a strike.

A strike is also the necessary and correct next step for Chicago teachers, who are being required by Chicago Public Schools (CPS) to work a 20% longer day for only 2% more in wages, according to ABC news. CPS also wants to bring in merit pay, larger class sizes and 60 new charter schools over the next five years, which would dramatically weaken the union as charter schools are rarely unionized.

The teachers’ contract ends this month. The results of the vote are expected by the end of the week. If successful, a strike action could begin at the beginning of the fall, 2012 school year. The last major teachers’ strike in Chicago was in 1987.

Modern School
http://modeducation.blogspot.com/2012/06/chicago-teacher-strike-vote-today.html
Posted by Modern School | Wed Jun 6, 2012, 11:20 PM (2 replies)

Majority of New Grads Embrace Vow of Poverty

The majority of new grads say they would gladly take a pay cut if that meant they could do something that “made a difference,” according to a recent survey by Net Impact. The survey found that 72% of graduating seniors felt that making a “positive societal impact” was essential to their happiness, while 45% said they would take a 15% pay cut to work at an organization they believed was making such an impact, according to Good Education.

Of course similar secular vows of poverty have been embraced for generations by teachers, nurses, social workers and others in the “helping” and care industries. People do not go into these professions to get rich—that’s not possible on a teacher’s, nurse’s or social worker’s salary—but because they want to do something positive for society. Indeed, this altruism is exploited by managers, administrators, politicians and pundits who know the do-gooders will continue to line up for jobs, even when wages and working conditions are declining.

However, there is something particularly twisted and irrational when framed as a willingness to take a pay cut in exchange for the belief that one was “making a difference.”

Considering that material insecurity and social inequality are probably the social issues most immediately threatening to the majority of people’s health and wellbeing (second only to climate change in terms of the long-term threat to global peace and security), it seems bizarre that a comfortable and secure income for all, including recent graduates and those in the “helping” fields, would not be considered a pressing social issue.

Yet even for those who see this as a pressing social need, there are very few jobs out there with this focus and it is questionable whether they are actually doing anything to improve people’s material wellbeing. Most paid union positions, for example, are bureaucratic, while the real power of a union lies in its members and their willingness to take job actions, something union bureaucracies have been increasingly discouraging (see here, here and here). There are also numerous jobs in social work, advocacy and services for the poor and the homeless, but these mostly provide temporary relief and do little or nothing to actually end homelessness and poverty.

Another way to parse the “vow of poverty” statistic is that large numbers of recent college grads accept social inequity, poverty, hunger, homelessness and suffering as normal and unalterable aspects of life, so they might as well get paid to provide some assistance to those who are suffering. By accepting low pay for this work, however, they are also accepting the notion that jobs in the “helping” fields are worth less than those in tech, finance, law or business, thus helping to keep these professions undervalued. And by taking jobs that depend on the continuation of social inequity, rather than fighting to end the causes, they help perpetuate the same problems they seek to remedy, by making it easier for the rest of society to ignore the problems.

It is even questionable whether recent grads truly prefer the belief they are doing good in society over having a decent salary. Consider that the study found that 24% of ”Millennials” are dissatisfied with their current job, compared with 14% of Gen Xers and 18% of Boomers. While this might be due to innately different values between the generations, it is likely influenced by the fact Gen Xers, and especially Boomers are more likely to have job stability, higher income, better benefits, better chances to live a comfortable, middle class American Dream lifestyle compared with the Millenials, who are saddled with tens of thousands of dollars in college debt, a protracted recession, decimated union movement, and a job market dominated by low income service sector jobs.

Modern School
http://modeducation.blogspot.com/2012/06/majority-of-new-grads-embrace-vow-of.html
Posted by Modern School | Wed Jun 6, 2012, 11:19 PM (4 replies)

LAUSD Sabotages Harassment Settlement, Imposes Abuser’s Name on School

A settlement with an employee who accused formed LAUSD Sup. Ramon Cortines of sexual harassment may be coming apart at the seams over both the disputed terms of the agreement and the disclosure of the victim’s name by LAUSD without his consent, the Los Angeles Times reported on Wednesday. The proposed settlement would have required the accuser to resign from his post in exchange for $200,000 and lifetime benefits.

The settlement proposal was announced by LAUSD before the victim had a chance to sign it. One point of contention was the value of the lifetime benefits, which the victim believes was agreed to be $300,000, whereas the district publicly announced a value of $250,000.

It was not clear from the Times article whether the victim has agreed to resign. State law prohibits an employer from firing an employee because he has filed sexual harassment charges against his employer, but they can tie a voluntary settlement to his resignation. However, considering that his yearly salary (not including benefits) was $150,000, it would not be surprising if he was unwilling to accept this conditon.

In related news, a delegation from the Ramon C. Cortines School of Visual and Performing Arts met with Board of Education President Monica Garcia to request a name change for the school. While it is completely reasonable to not want one’s school named after an accused harasser, the controversy over the naming of this school has a longer and more sordid history. According to the Times, Garcia and her colleagues overrode an earlier pledge to give students, parents and teachers a say in the naming of their school, and then imposed the Cortines name on them. Now Garcia is ignoring parent’s and teacher’s claims that the stigma of the name is harming student and teacher morale, arguing that the school’s name is a good one since Cortines promoted the arts and played a key role in the development of the school.

It is disturbing and ironic that LAUSD fired the entire staff at one school because of the sexual misconduct of two teachers, yet just a few years earlier had actively covered up the sexual misconduct allegations against its own superintendent and then allowed him to retire with benefits (see here).

Modern School
http://modeducation.blogspot.com/2012/06/lausd-sabotages-harassment-settlement.html
Posted by Modern School | Fri Jun 1, 2012, 08:01 PM (0 replies)

Jobs Trump Wages: Ironworkers Great Sellout

In an economy with high numbers of unemployed workers who require a year or more on average to find work, it is understandable that workers would fear for their jobs and a secure livelihood. However, for many industries, particularly manufacturing, the problem has been ongoing for the past forty years, as U.S. manufacturing has downsized or moved off shore. The problem has exacerbated the decline of unionism, particularly in the private sector, as union manufacturing jobs disappear and either never come back at all, or get replaced by lower waged, nonunion jobs.

New York’s unionized iron workers, fearing they will be squeezed out of jobs by cheaper nonunion workers, have voluntarily agreed to a 15% cut in compensation (roughly $14 per hour in wages and benefits), in hopes of undercutting their nonunion colleagues. According to the New York Daily News, 86% of union members approved the deal.

This brings up a couple of disturbing questions. What is the point of being in a union if it is not improving wages, benefits and working conditions? If union workers voluntarily reduce their pay to a level commensurate with nonunion workers and must continue to pay union dues, they are actually earning less than their nonunion colleagues. Such a strategy is not likely to preserve union jobs for long, as workers start to see fewer benefits to remaining in the union.

Then there is the question of why there are so many nonunion workers out there to undercut their pay and benefits. If the union was really doing its job, it would be aggressively organizing nonunion jobsites and creating an atmosphere in which it is more painful and expensive for employers not to hire union workers.

Modern School
http://modeducation.blogspot.com/2012/06/jobs-trump-wages-ironworkers-great.html
Posted by Modern School | Fri Jun 1, 2012, 08:00 PM (6 replies)
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