Labor Day and Dislike of Unions
It’s funny that the nation takes a day off the first Monday in September (unless you have a minimum wage job, in which case you’re probably selling grills or hot dogs) to celebrate the creation of unions. So many people are anti-union, especially when it comes to teachers unions.
I can’t tell you how many articles and comments I’ve read that denigrate teachers unions. They talk about teachers as if we’re demanding raises at the expense of everything else. They paint us as nameless, faceless greedy Grinches who will sell your kid’s soul to the devil for ten cents more a year. This comes after the month long lovefest of articles celebrating the generosity of underpaid teachers who dip into their own meager resources to provide pencils and glue sticks for needy kids. Isn’t that ironic?
Anyway, back to the union thing. In national polls, people have a low opinion of teachers and schools, yet when asked about THEIR community schools, people generally rate them quite high. People hate on the teacher unions, but they love their kids’ teachers. Why? Simple—we make an easy scapegoat. Teachers do care about the kids we teach, and most of us dislike politics. We want to teach kids, not fight legislators to increase school funding to keep up with inflation.
I’ve NEVER had a cost of living increase. I haven’t had an actual raise in over a decade. In fact, I’ve taken about a 19% pay cut. I now work two jobs. Last year, my second job brought in as much income as teaching. This year, it’ll bring more. Does that mean that teaching is now the second job?
Additionally legislators have made us pay more for health care. You’re thinking we should, right? What if I told you that in bargaining, we put would-be raises into paying for rising health care costs so that the district wasn’t paying out any more money? What if I told you that we were already indirectly paying for those increased costs?
We pay a price for that method, one that actually eases the burden on the pension system. When we retire, the cost of benefits isn’t figured into our pension payout. Now that the legislature has forced us to pay out of pocket for health care increases, we’ll take those raises. Of course there’s been no increase in the per pupil allowance, so there will be no raise for us.
But what about those greedy teachers in unions? What do unions actually do? In my district, they made the district send home 650 kids in a school that had no power and water. The district was going to keep them there even though they couldn’t flush a toilet or get a drink of water. The union put pressure on them, and they sent the kids home, where they had access to bathrooms and water.
And just like your child’s teacher advocates for your child, so does the union. We may do it on a school or district level, but the union does it on a state and national level. Schools don’t make money, and so it’s ludicrous to apply a business model to them. They educate. They connect communities. They advocate for neglected and abused kids. They help community services find families that need help feeding and clothing their kids, getting sober, or finding jobs.
People often argue that unions prevent change from happening in schools, but that’s false as well. Teachers bring new methods to the classroom, but we’re often not supported or shot down by administrators. Unions advocate for updated curriculum and teaching methods.
I’ve seen people rage against the school calendar. Boys do better when they can learn in the afternoon, and elementary kids learn better in the morning. Teachers have no say over those things. Daily start times are determined by the bus schedule. The yearly calendar is in the hands of politicians. In Michigan, they passed laws that say school can’t start until after Labor Day, they set the length of the school year/day, and they determine holiday, winter, and spring breaks. That pretty much dictates when the year ends as well. Teachers have NOTHING to do with any of that, and we’re shot down when we bring up those kinds of ideas.
Unions aren’t perfect, but they’re the only thing protecting your child from being treated as a trade commodity. After all, I don’t see parents out there advocating for their school-aged kids.