I’ve reached a point where I can’t hold off weighing in on the State of Wisconsin vs. its own teachers issue, especially since a similar issue has come up in my own state of Ohio. Before I continue, it is worth knowing that I am a prospective teacher. Currently, I work as a building substitute, but I would love to have my own classes and room one day. Obviously, that will flavor my thoughts on this matter.
I readily agree that teachers, as well as employees of several other government agencies, are going to have to be willing to make some tough sacrifices. Times have changed and what employers are willing to offer has changed as well. There is no doubt that benefits will be scaled back and pay will, at the very least, be frozen. This sucks horridly, but it sucks for everyone.
That said, if the right to collectively bargain for benefits is taken away from teachers, the results will be disastrous. First, this will, without a doubt, mean the eventual end of benefits for teachers or a reduction to the point of near non-existence. Without the ability to stand together, no single teacher will be able to protect themselves in this eventuality. Further, this won’t stop with teachers. A step like this will present a precedent that will be applied to all industries as a way to bust up unions.
In this day and age, with the benefits we are used to (such as the eight hour workday, paid overtime, the forty hour work week and the right to work in a safe workplace), it is easy to forget that the situation was not always this way. These things were not, as Utah Phillips put it, “gifts from a wise and benevolent management”, they were fought for and bled for by people that formed unions to protect themselves against the abuses of employers much larger than themselves.
I’m very afraid of where this could possibly lead.
(Later, I may rant some more about further specifics in the ohio bill that are even more frightening and which will have a hugely negative affect on education in the state, but that depends on my ability to stop weeping into my tie.)