Why Oh Why (part 4)

This is the third part in a series exploring why the educational system (teachers in particular) are being attacked. You can read the first part here, the second part here and the third part here.

One of the main complaints of the people who actually know something about the educational system (as opposed to most of the people who are trying to screw teachers over) is that “Unions are Evil.”  They say that unions provide legal excuses for not working.  If that’s true, I say you have a shitty union (or an awesome one, depending on your laziness).

Unions exist as a level of balance.  What I mean is – and I’ve talked about this in another article – Those Above are constantly trying to screw over Those in the Trenches.  Without a union, they are able to that consistently.

Think about every job – not career – you’ve ever had; think about all those crappy jobs you never wanted but you had to have in order to pay the bills: Taco Bell, a grocery store, Wal-Mart, mowing lawns, etc.  Now think of all the times your boss tried to screw you over (figuratively, hopefully; unless he/she was a hottie).  I bet it happened all the time.  I bet it seemed like it happened daily.  I know it did where I worked.

I worked at Burger King where I was told I couldn’t work one minute more than 40 hours.  There were several times where I was called in with 39.5 hours on the clock just to fill in a hole in the schedule for 30 minutes.  I worked at a campground store where I was told not to take any breaks while management was able to roam the grounds without working a single hour.  I worked at a mail-sorting facility where, depending on how fast you were at sorting mail, the more mail you got to sort (I was the fastest on staff; therefore, I got the most mail.  When I quit they had to hire three people to replace me).

With a union, these situations wouldn’t have been tolerated.  There would have been a provision in the contract at Burger King where, “If an employee clocks in, he/she clocks in for at least six hours;” there would’ve been a provision at the campground where “all employees must prove work for the day;” there would’ve been a provision at the mail-sorting plant where “everyone gets the same number of mail pieces, regardless of talent to do mind-numbing labor at slave wages.”  However, there wasn’t a union; instead all that happened was everyone was unhappy all the time and things never really worked the way they were supposed to.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t believe every job should be represented by a union.  Slinging burgers and ice cream and mail doesn’t exactly count as a “career choice”; that is, I never aspired to make Whoppers or fill beef jerky stock or memorize every zip code in Michigan’s lower peninsula.  They were in-between jobs at best.  I do believe, though, that every job that one aspires to – that one acquires an education for – should be unionized.

With a union, you don’t get that consistent screw-over.  You get it sometimes, sure, but that’s the great part of checks and balances: if there’s a screw-over, it probably benefits every part of the system but yours.

For instance, if there was some sort of BKEA (Burger King Employees Association) and there was a mandate that an employee sweep the dining room every night so there can’t be one sesame seed left on the floor, this would benefit the owners and the managers, but not the guy sweeping.  The union lost this particular battle (but in the long run, a clean-looking dining room benefits everyone).

Much like all check-and-balances, though, over time, these little battles and up being showstoppers (check the number of filibusters or “threat to filibuster” in congress in just the last few months and you’ll see what I mean) and since everything is a showstopper, no one can tell the difference between something important – like healthcare – and something trivial – like picking up sesame seeds.

The best way to get fired is to friend your boss.

And so the unions defend all teachers and benefits in the same manner: a fight to the death.  A teacher touching a kid’s ass gets the same defense as a teacher showing his ass gets the same defense as a teacher saying the word “ass” gets the same defense as a teaching writing “@$$” on a Facebook page.

I think we all know who should be fired and who should be told to knock it off.

“Unions = Evil”?  No.  “Unions = Oversimplified”?  Probably. But it’s still no reason to attack teachers in the way are currently being attacked.


5 Responses

  1. “And so the unions defend all teachers and benefits in the same manner: a fight to the death. A teacher touching a kid’s ass gets the same defense as a teacher showing his ass gets the same defense as a teacher saying the word “ass” gets the same defense as a teaching writing “@$$” on a Facebook page.”

    It seems unusual to me that unions function that way; that is, like attorneys.

    I say it’s strange because unions have an interest in maintaining the integrity of their profession, and, therefore, an interest in deterring bad behavior within it.

    The fact that attorneys are obligated to maintain client confidence and pursue legal, even if despicable, goals of the client, is viewed dimly enough, even if the necessity of the profession is well established. (Or, at least, well accepted.) Attorneys could, hypothetically, be required only to assist those who appear the have the right side of an argument and are pursuing lofty goals. For an assortment of reasons, it has been determined that the need of people to obtain legal advice without fear of exposing themselves to liability through revealed confidences outweighs the benefits to be had if attorneys ratted out wrongdoers. (The latter benefit would soon shrink to negligibility if wrongdoers knew they had no confidentiality with their attorneys. ) And etc. We all know the deal, I think, whether you buy it or not.

    I’ don’t see the same urgency in unions. A union that protects every member in every circumstance is exactly the evil that Ebert was discussing in the article I mentioned earlier. Unions don’t simply advocate a member’s position before a neutral arbiter; they wield inherent power. It’s one thing to provide a wrongdoer with legal advice and an opportunity to present his/her position, and another to provide a wrongdoer directly with the means to punish accusers and evade harm.

    I don’t see what the harm would be if unions permitted the legitimate punishing/firing of their members. As long as the process by which wrongdoing is identified provides sufficient safeguards (i.e. as long as the union can be assured that the alleged misconduct actually occurred), and the resultant punishment is fair, there is no social benefit in the union preventing the process. There’s not even really a benefit to the other members, beyond the assurance that if they do wrong, they may be able to avoid punishment as well. Which is, again, precisely the sort of abuse alleged.

  2. I agree. I would think that a union would want its members to live up to a certain standard so that the community sees anyone who is a member of this union to be a “good guy.”
    I think I might add your “unions have turned into lawyers” argument in my final Why Oh Why; it bridges a gap that I couldn’t put together.

  3. […] You can read the first part here, the second part here the third part here, and the fourth part here. "Ford F-150: When you can't afford a […]

  4. […] The first part of this podcast is germane to the educator posts I had a few weeks back (view them here, here, here, here). […]

  5. […] Read the fourth article here. […]

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