Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
DOUBLE YOUR DONATION!
We don’t run corporate ads. We don’t shake our readers down for money every month or every quarter like some other sites out there. We provide our site for free to all, but the bandwidth we pay to do so doesn’t come cheap. A generous donor is matching all donations of $100 or more! So please donate now to double your punch!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Lies About Teachers and Unions

There was a time when public school teachers plied their trade in relative anonymity, content in the knowledge that their noble profession was respected (if not adequately compensated) by their community. Teachers were seldom mentioned in the media; and when they were, it usually involved a commendation or warm “human interest” story.

Today, we read about teachers being arrested for sexually molesting their students, and, increasingly, being charged with gross incompetence — being accused of a level of ineptitude that renders them “unqualified” to teach. In the first instance, the guilty teachers are stripped of their credential and carted off to prison, in the second, they continue teaching. Why? Well, if one believes the myth, it’s because their big, bad union won’t allow them to be fired.

Union obstructionism is cited by the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) as a major cause of the startling decline in student performance. Despite so many obvious factors — staggering shifts in demographics, increased transience, language barriers, the breakdown of the nuclear family, and a lack of state funding for education — the chief culprits have been narrowed down to incompetent teachers and the evil union that “shelters” them. Take Ariana Huffington, the liberal pundit and self-promoter. She’s swallowed the trumped-up charges and gone on record, blaming the union for the state’s low test scores.

But these are the same unionized teachers who ran the classrooms at the same unionized schools back in the glory days when California’s public school system (K to 12) was the envy of the nation, routinely ranked among the top two or three in the country. How can it be the union’s fault? How can the same teachers who were credited for California’s success now be identified as the root cause of its failure?

The LAUSD isn’t helpless. They find a snake in the woodpile, they can get rid of it. The District can fire its teachers at any time, for any reason, without explanation—for up to two full years from their date of hire (compare that to the standard 60 or 90-day probationary periods found in most industries). After two years, they are required to show cause for terminating a teacher. What’s so wrong with that?

Union members in this country get fired every day, for infractions ranging from absenteeism to insubordination to DOJ (drunk on the job). The notion of a union contract containing language that would somehow “exclude” an employee from the disciplinary process is nutty.

Think about it. Even if a union negotiator were arrogant or twitchy enough to request such “immunity,” what company would ever agree to it? What management team would sign a contract that, effectively, abrogated its right to manage? Yet, the myth persists; people go around saying that all a union worker has to do is sweat out his/her probationary period, and they’re home free. After that, management can’t touch them.

The record will show that AWPPW Local 672 is no candy-assed union. Over the years, the local has filed hundreds of grievances, dozens of ULPs (Unfair Labor Practice charges), and half a dozen lawsuits. Twice they went on strike, shut it down and sent everyone home. By post-Reagan, west coast standards, Local 672 was militant .Yet, diligent and prickly as the union was, people were still fired. They were fired because management, unlike the LAUSD, was neither spineless nor lazy. Rightly or wrongly, the managers did what they thought had to be done, and the union executive board responded in kind. Someone needs to remind the LAUSD that you’re not supposed to whine about the other guys; you’re supposed to act. That’s why you sign a contract, to delineate the boundaries.

At Local 672, discharges were treated as economic homicide. All terminations were appealed, no exceptions. When an appeal was denied, the local had to decide whether to accept the verdict, or send the case to arbitration, the final step in the process. Employees whose grievances weren’t sent up had no choice but to stay fired or sue the union. While a handful of members threatened legal action, only two actually did it. Both lost. As for arbitration rulings, the union’s record was spotty: Some grievants won reinstatement; the overwhelming majority did not.

Yes, it’s harder to get fired from a union shop than a non-union shop, but that’s one of the sterling virtues of a union. A boss can’t just walk up and fire you because he wants to give your spot to his wife’s nephew, who’s looking for a summer job before returning to college. In a union shop there have to be grounds for dismissal.

It was unions, after all, not congress, the church, or philanthropic organizations, who first outlawed child labor, mandated equal pay for women, and introduced industrial safety codes to the workplace. Heroically, unions beat everybody to the punch. Protecting workers is what unions strive to do.

Finally, if unions are the ones responsible for preventing management from firing its deadbeats, how do we explain the conspicuous incompetence found in so many non-union facilities? The truth is, like it or not, the woods are full of marginal workers. Having a union to blame simply gives a weak employer an excuse. If there were Moslems to blame, instead of unions, they’d blame the Moslems.

DAVID MACARAY, a Los Angeles playwright and writer, was president and chief contract negotiator of the Assn. of Western Pulp and Paper Workers, Local 672, from 1989 to 2000. He can be reached at: dmacaray@earthlink.net

 

 

More articles by:

David Macaray is a playwright and author. His newest book is How To Win Friends and Avoid Sacred Cows.  He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

October 23, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
The Middle East, Not Russia, Will Prove Trump’s Downfall
Ipek S. Burnett
The Assault on The New Colossus: Trump’s Threat to Close the U.S.-Mexican Border
Mary Troy Johnston
The War on Terror is the Reign of Terror
Maximilian Werner
The Rhetoric and Reality of Death by Grizzly
David Macaray
Teamsters, Hells Angels, and Self-Determination
Jeffrey Sommers
“No People, Big Problem”: Democracy and Its Discontents In Latvia
Dean Baker
Looking for the Next Crisis: the Not Very Scary World of CLOs
Binoy Kampmark
Leaking for Change: ASIO, Jakarta, and Australia’s Jerusalem Problem
Chris Wright
The Necessity of “Lesser-Evil” Voting
Muhammad Othman
Daunting Challenge for Activists: The Cook Customer “Connection”
Don Fitz
A Debate for Auditor: What the Papers Wouldn’t Say
October 22, 2018
Henry Giroux
Neoliberalism in the Age of Pedagogical Terrorism
Melvin Goodman
Washington’s Latest Cold War Maneuver: Pulling Out of the INF
David Mattson
Basket of Deplorables Revisited: Grizzly Bears at the Mercy of Wyoming
Michelle Renee Matisons
Hurricane War Zone Further Immiserates Florida Panhandle, Panama City
Tom Gill
A Storm is Brewing in Europe: Italy and Its Public Finances Are at the Center of It
Suyapa Portillo Villeda
An Illegitimate, US-Backed Regime is Fueling the Honduran Refugee Crisis
Christopher Brauchli
The Liars’ Bench
Gary Leupp
Will Trump Split the World by Endorsing a Bold-Faced Lie?
Michael Howard
The New York Times’ Animal Cruelty Fetish
Alice Slater
Time Out for Nukes!
Geoff Dutton
Yes, Virginia, There are Conspiracies—I Think
Daniel Warner
Davos in the Desert: To Attend or Not, That is Not the Question
Priti Gulati Cox – Stan Cox
Mothers of Exiles: For Many, the Child-Separation Ordeal May Never End
Manuel E. Yepe
Pence v. China: Cold War 2.0 May Have Just Begun
Raouf Halaby
Of Pith Helmets and Sartorial Colonialism
Dan Carey
Aspirational Goals  
Wim Laven
Intentional or Incompetence—Voter Suppression Where We Live
Weekend Edition
October 19, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jason Hirthler
The Pieties of the Liberal Class
Jeffrey St. Clair
A Day in My Life at CounterPunch
Paul Street
“Male Energy,” Authoritarian Whiteness and Creeping Fascism in the Age of Trump
Nick Pemberton
Reflections on Chomsky’s Voting Strategy: Why The Democratic Party Can’t Be Saved
John Davis
The Last History of the United States
Yigal Bronner
The Road to Khan al-Akhmar
Robert Hunziker
The Negan Syndrome
Andrew Levine
Democrats Ahead: Progressives Beware
Rannie Amiri
There is No “Proxy War” in Yemen
David Rosen
America’s Lost Souls: the 21st Century Lumpen-Proletariat?
Joseph Natoli
The Age of Misrepresentations
Ron Jacobs
History Is Not Kind
John Laforge
White House Radiation: Weakened Regulations Would Save Industry Billions
Ramzy Baroud
The UN ‘Sheriff’: Nikki Haley Elevated Israel, Damaged US Standing
Robert Fantina
Trump, Human Rights and the Middle East
Anthony Pahnke – Jim Goodman
NAFTA 2.0 Will Help Corporations More Than Farmers
Jill Richardson
Identity Crisis: Elizabeth Warren’s Claims Cherokee Heritage
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail