Monday, February 21, 2011

Lies About Wisconsin, Ohio...

[Edit, based on Calvin's comment: Unions were created because of abused workers, and tied into the end of child labor laws. These are good things, unless you're Republican and want to fund (read: tax cut) the corporations at the risk of crushing the hopes of real working Americans. Even today, while some abuses rear their ugly heads, the base mission is still valid: If the state (or other large group) controls your wages, you're going to get screwed. And yet teachers are still getting screwed. In Ohio, school funding based on property tax has been banned by the Ohio Supreme Court for over 20 years, yet no one changes it. But I digress - Unions are needed. And I hope I capture that in my post.]

The Riots

I was driving from Cleveland to Cincinnati yesterday afternoon, half-hungover and half awake, trolling the local AM stations from there to here and came upon quite the pompous asshole (unidentified conservative) who was taking calls about what's happening in Madison. When confronted with how hard teachers work, he reverted to "yeah, I work hard too." Then he switched to "Their job sucks!"

But all during his (and I will readily group Hannity and the other rightwing tools and myrmidons here), he nonchalantly referred to what was happening in Madison and Columbus as "riots" and "bullying" while out of the other side of his mouth saying all the Governor wanted to do was balance the budget and referring to the Tea Partier protesters as "just representing the taxpayer."

Yes, this should probably sit in the Hypocrisy section, but if we categorized it by that, the whole post would be under one heading.

The Teachers

Just to be clear: I was a teacher for one year. It was 50% wonderful with the kids. It was 50% horrible in the politics and administration. Also: the Madison issue is about ALL public service professionals.

Experienced teachers who have it down and still do a great job run an average of about 60-70 hours per week between teaching, planning, and grading. They spend 10-15% of their income on supplies and tools that the schools will not, either for them or the students.

The Hypocrisy

All the verbal abuse of the protests (RIOTS!) in Madison are from the right wing. And they're clearly targeting the unions as the abusers and devils. Why? Because while unions collect dues while helping negotiations for benefits and salaries, they also use some of those dues to promote political parties and candidates that support the unions.

And - YES - unions have, in some cases, totally abused their power and outgrown their use as their detriment has taken the ruling share when it comes to workers' benefit.

But the only reason it's an issue for the right wing right now is that 99% of those union donations go to Democrats because 99% of union supporters are Democrats. If that union money was going into the GOP fund, Hannity's only comment on the subject would be "They're doing the right thing, for themselves, and for America."

Life Without Unions

As a first-year teacher in North Carolina, where teachers' unions appear to be completely missing, allow me to tell you what happens (numbers were from about 5 years ago):
  • First year teachers will start at $23,400.
  • Mandatory 10% into retirement (that will eventually be your pension, none from state).
  • Tax the rest at about 24%.
  • You have the option of taking your yearly salary in 9 months or 12 months. Okay, can we do 12? Yes, but the way that works is you have to open a separate account, do the math yourself, and put away what you think you'll need over the 3 months and have that direct deposited from each check. But after realizing you won't even be able to pay the mortgage if you split it into 12, you opt for 9 and cross your fingers you'll be able to find something else during your "time off."
  • You'll be working about 80 hours per week. Sometimes more for a teacher (English) where you have to grade 5-paragraph essays from 120+ students multiple times each semester.
  • During the time you don't have, you're required to spend the money you don't have to pay to attend Continuing Education classes.

Why isn't anyone talking about what happens when you don't have unions?

The Reality

While the right wing refuses to acknowledge it, this is about power. The bill on the floor, the contention on the main issue is based on killing the union's ability to negotiate as a group. It allows the state to say "We don't have the money to meet what you want" and lets the salary to default to the "previous contract" meaning you basically don't get a raise if they say they don't have the money.

The power grab is simple. Pass the bill and own your public employees. Teachers aren't paid enough as it is as the people teaching/training/loving/supporting our kids when we're not there (and many parents aren't there out of school). Hey, let's pay them less because they're asking for more. Brilliant!

The Senators

The Democratic Party senators have left the state. The right wing is calling them cheats and liars. They might want to take a look at what Lincoln did. These Democratic Senators are apparently following The Party of Lincoln's playbook.

The Conclusion

These teachers and firefighters and police and every other public servant needs the unions to get them a fair wage. Yes, the unions sometimes abuse their power and certainly use money where they shouldn't, but the alternative is an abomination to anyone involved in a state job.

Keep your fight, Wisconsin! Bring the fight harder, Ohio!

And every other state that sees this horror coming, the Republican terrorism of breaking the unions in a veiled mission to balance the budget, be forewarned by our lessons and take heed. A struggle is about to begin. Embrace it!


Kal said...

You forgot to mention that unions are big supporters of the Democratic party because of how the Repbulicans want to make them the bad guys. Everyone forgets that unions were NEEDED in history because businesses couldn't be counted on to do the right things and protect workers while giving them a decent salary. This is such a joke and to hear ANYONE put down teachers thinking they don't work hard because they get weekends and summers OFF has no clue at how dedicated people who go into that profession are. The crap we take from administrations and parents just to insure that THE KIDS get a well enough education to make a good life for themselves cannot be believed. All that for no money and no respect. I know because I was a teacher for 20 years. I can always go back to subbing because that means no marking, no planning, no staff meetings, no coaching, and no travel. Luckily Canada has respect for teachers and our associations are very strong advocates for their members. No wonder your education system is in the shithole and your students rank so low on global tests. It makes me crazy to see people have to go through this.

Pearl said...

I am a staunch supporter of unions and the working man. Good for WI. Go OH!!


Debra She Who Seeks said...

Yes, it's union busting, pure and simple.

Ricky Shambles said...

Thanks Kal- post updated due to you.

Pearl- YAY! Go!

Debra- Hells yeah, and that shit don't fly in Ohio.