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Californias Powerful Teachers Unions?

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Modern School Donating Member (558 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jul-12-11 10:07 PM
Original message
In an apparent payback to the California Teachers Association (CTA), which has donated millions to state politicians, the legislature quietly and privately shoved through a bill, AB114, that prevents districts from laying off teachers and forces them to maintain staffing and programs at last years funding level, the San Francisco Chronicle reported today. The wording of the bill was concocted in a backroom deal between the governor, Democratic legislators and representatives of the CTA.

In the past, state law allowed districts to reduce teaching staff until August 15 to address budget shortfalls. AB114 suspends this right. This is particularly frustrating for districts which are fearful that the state may not be able to come up with the $4 billion in anticipated revenues upon which the new budget depends. Should the state come up short, districts would have to make other cuts, such as the Brown-favored plan of shortening the school year by seven or more days.

Strong Union?
CTA President Dean Vogel, quoted in the Chronicle, said that "the easiest thing to do when you're trying to solve the kind of budget crisis hitting us is lay off employees. It's the easy way out."

Vogel is grossly exaggerating. Districts usually try to avoid layoffs, as they increase class sizes and force program cuts which harm students and piss off parents. The easiest and first thing they do is freeze wages and benefits, demand teachers start paying more out of pocket for their benefits, and furlough them. They have been doing this for the past three years, resulting in decreased take-home pay for the vast majority of teachers. Those working in basic aid districts, which have been slightly more insulated from the budget crises of the past few years, have had their wages frozen. With rising living costs due to inflation, even this amounts to a de facto pay cut.

While the unions complain about these actions, they generally concede and justify their concessions with arguments like, We shouldnt expect a raise or cost of living increase this year because the district is broke, or Wouldnt you rather have a few furlough days than get laid off? The unions have done virtually nothing to fight for increased revenues and state spending aside from a few pathetic rallies, press conferences and spending millions on the campaigns of fickle politicians who would rather throw the unions a few measly bones, like increased job protections, than raise taxes on themselves, which would be necessary for revenues and spending to increase and stabilize.

It should also be pointed out that while preventing layoffs is good for teachers and students, it could result in a shortening of the school year, which is bad for students, who will lose considerable instructional time, and parents, who will have to take time off work to care for their children or pay for babysitters or activities to keep them busy. It is also bad for teachers, who will lose seven or more days worth of pay in addition to already existing furloughs, pay cuts and/or wage freezes.

The powerful CTA, thus, has won job protections for its members by wasting millions of dollars of their dues to buy off some politicians, money that would have been much more effectively used to organize and mobilize their members to strike and demand increased taxes on the wealthy to ensure a steady, secure and ample revenue stream for the future. However, even this victory for teachers is dubious as their salaries are being wagered to preserve their jobs, while overall state spending on education remains among the lowest in the nation, resulting in some of the largest class sizes and lowest ratios of counselors, librarians and nurses in the nation. This hardly seems like a strong union.

Modern School
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mrmpa Donating Member (707 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jul-12-11 10:28 PM
Response to Original message
1. Do you hate unions much???
How is what unions do, in order to preserve jobs for their members, any different from any lobbying group that gets millions of dollars in tax credits for their already profitable companies?

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Modern School Donating Member (558 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-14-11 09:10 PM
Response to Reply #1
3. Hate is awfully strong--How 'bout disgusted with?
No, I don't hate unions. I'm a union organizer and was a leg rep for years. I believe unions are one of the most powerful ways to resist oppression, in theory. Problem is that virtually all unions are corrupt and theoretically and methodologically bankrupt. First, they are almost all organized by craft, rather than industry, which pits workers against workers. Second, trying to compete with wealthy bosses in the lobbying sphere is a losing battle. Even the biggest unions cannot compete with the Koch Bros or Bill Gates. Even when unions "succeed" in lobbying, it only gets lame compromises like fewer layoffs, rather than significant gains like increased pay and benefits, better working conditions and social power. Furthermore, our real power as workers is in our ability to withhold our labor and gum up the machines, yet unions are increasingly moving away from strikes and job actions. In fact, they do everything in the power to maintain harmony at the workplace. They focus too much on maintaining jobs, not enough on the quality of those jobs.

Yes, what unions do is no different than other lobbying group, except less effective. Our goal should not be just to preserve jobs. Jobs, in and of themselves are not a good thing. We work to live (not live to work). We should be fighting for social power, for affluence for all, for safer and saner working conditions, to abolish useless and stupid work (e.g., insurance, warfare, coal mining and burning). The bosses and the rich get their power and wealth by exploiting us, by paying us less than they make from the products and services we produce, pocketing the surplus.
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proud2BlibKansan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-14-11 08:14 AM
Response to Original message
2. Your war on unions is a war on teachers,
since the vast majority of us are in a union.

Why is it you post and never reply?
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Modern School Donating Member (558 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-14-11 09:27 PM
Response to Reply #2
4. An Army of One!!
Yeh, I've declared war on unions and teachers and I'll take them all on all by myself I'm so powerful.

Get real proud liberal Kansan (and try paying better attention to what I write). I never said I'm against unions. But just because I'm in a union and work as an organizer for my union, does not mean I should shut up and accept all the stupid and weak things they do. Fighting to preserve jobs is all good and well, but what if those jobs suck, as teaching jobs more and more do. We should just accept stagnant pay, rants and attacks by pundits and politicians, deteriorating working conditions, demands that we single-handedly solve social problems like poverty, accept pay and evaluations tied to students' wealth, accept furloughs and increasing health care costs, fewer librarians, custodians and nurses and continue to act "professionally" by shuffling our feet and being polite? The unions have relinquished their historically proven strength of organizing workers and taking job actions, like strikes, so their bureaucrats can maintain cushy 6-figure salaries and lavish banquets with politicians and philanthropists. And in the course of doing so, have accepted take-back and cut after take-back and cut, so that the average worker today has a lower standard of living than in the 1970s (and this trend was happening even before the current recession started).

BTW, I don't reply so often because I work full time as a teacher, I'm the father of a toddler, I'm a union organizer, I blog, and I have a life.

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mrmpa Donating Member (707 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-14-11 10:13 PM
Response to Reply #4
5. How can you work full time as a teacher and also be a .....
union organizer? If you mean that you recruit co-workers to become members of the union, I can see that. But I can't see that you are also a "union organizer", which is a full time + job.
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