Wednesday, January 11, 2012

When is it okay to strike?

I want to start with the fact that I come from a family of teachers and am surrounded by MANY friends and acquaintances who are teachers.   I fully respect the jobs that teachers do, and acknowledge the fact that they are many times under-appreciated.

With that being said, I don't always agree with the stance teachers unions - and many unions for that matter - take.   But now that I said that, I ask you to hear me out, because I am bound to surprise you in the end.

I think many teachers and their unions need to recognize that much of the workers in America are not unionized, we don't get to just demand what we want and strike (or picket if you are in a school district that is not allowed to strike) to help fight our cause.    For those of us who are lucky to have decent jobs, we still get underpaid, and pay a boatload of money to have health insurance.   For many others, they are drastically underpaid and don't even get offered health insurance.  

I recognize as teachers that although school hours are 9-3 (or whatever they may be), many of you still work more than that so you can grade papers, complete lesson plans, etc.   But I also recognize that many of you get paid more to do after-school activities.    I work 8-5 on a good day, many times my hours average out to more like 50 hours a week - and I don't get any overtime or comp time.

You get breaks throughout the year that add up to more vacation time than I can think of - and I'm not including summer break in that at all.   Im talking about your winter break, your spring break, all the holidays schools acknowledge that most businesses don't, etc. 

Then you talk about summer break, where you get two months off.    Or if you want to teach in the summer, you get paid good money to teach one of those months - typically for just a half day - and still get the other month off.

Many teachers get paid more than I do once they've been doing it for a few years because automatic raises kick in.   And then if you go out to some of the suburban schools - those teachers can reach up to six figures.   Back in 2000, my match teacher was in the six figures.

In the 5 years that Ive been at my company, I have endured one year with a pay cut (that we haven't and won't get back) and 2 years without any raises whatsoever.   And the year that raises did kick in I got a promotion with a measly 3% raise (from a salary that was less than I started at).    I get 2 weeks vacation and 8 paid holidays.    I spend at least a quarter of my weekends working and don't get anything for those extra hours.   If I want to take a day off after a long, enduring work trip - I have to use a vacation day.

With all that being said, teachers are the ones who educate our kids (when the government and their "No Child Left Behind" acts don't interfere) and they do deserve certain (limited) dalliances/benefits that some of us others might not get. 

Image taken from 6ABC-WPVI website
There are some teachers unions out there that I have a lot of respect for, because they do recognize the concept of finding a middle ground.   There was the one a couple years back - I believe in West Chester, PA - that took a paycut to save teachers jobs.    But specifically, the one that spawned this blog entry that I have respect for is Neshaminy Federation of Teachers in Bucks County, PA. 

They have been operating on an expired contract for 4 years and during that time, had never gone on strike.    Just this week, they decided to finally go on strike because the Neshaminy School Board wasn't working with them.   And you know what the boards reaction to that was?   We aren't going to negotiate with you while on strike.

Even if you don't agree with the teachers union, refusing to negotiate with them isn't the way to go - you are just fueling the fire.   That's just like the republicans in the House who refused to pass a short term extension of the tax credit because they wanted to pass the bill they had in mind (that would have continued to hurt our economy as the republicans have already done for so long).

I don't know everything that the teachers union wants and the opposing views of the school board - but I know that we are slowly working our way out of the depression the Bush administration and his republican buddies helped put us in, and with that, its time to work out a new contract that provides some raises to those teachers who have waited patiently these past 4 years.    I do agree that compromise needs to happen on both sides, but I also feel that you can't go from 0 to 60 in 1 second, everything needs to come in time and small increments.    But the only way to get to a resolution is for the school board to get back to the table.

Please Note: These are solely my own opinions - you take the good with the bad.   I have absolutely no relationship with anyone on the board of the NFT Union, nor am I related to anyone within the NFT Union - although, as I mentioned I know many teachers, including at least one in this school district.  Additionally, I am a taxpayer in this school district, and recognize that our taxes could rise with a negotiated contract, and accept that change as it comes with being a homeowner.

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