Things I Know 67 of 365: Hope’s waiting for Lefty

The labor movement was the principal force that transformed misery and despair into [Hope] and progress.

– Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I’m having a difficult time reconciling some rhetoric.

Unions are big. They are bad. They stand in the way of progress.

They add to the burgeoning bureaucracy of America.

We will save the banks, but break the unions.

Workers, it seems, are not too big to fail.

In education, one of the most oft relied upon arguments against unions centers around teacher quality.

It is the unions, we are told, that stand in the way of removing ineffective teachers from the classroom.

The paperwork, the proof of corrective action, the negotiations, the documentation. We’re told it’s hardly worth it to go through the process to divest bad teachers from the classroom. I mean, all that work just to make sure students are receiving the highest quality education possible. Yeesh.

And yet.

In the course of 21 days, the district has removed from the classroom, held hearings on and recommended the termination of a teacher who gave transit tokens to her students.

I don’t understand.

A teacher loved and respected by her students and colleagues, with no failing test scores that can be traced to her, has been stripped of her classroom in under a month, and I’m led to believe it’s the union that stands in the way of clearing “bad” teachers from the classroom?

Sure, Union President Jerry Jordan promised to fight the termination every step of the way, but I hardly see this as the flexing of political muscle we’ve heard so much about.

Teachers unions are ridiculously powerful, right? I mean, they’re spooky, angry, unthinking powerhouses of collective might.

That’s what I read, hear and see on the news.


Unless the teacher hands out transit tokens.

Ignore students, stay in the classroom. Yell at students, stay in the classroom. Insult students, stay in the classroom. Fail to show up to school, stay in the classroom (if you ever get there).

In these things, the union can and will protect you.

Provide students with the means to participate in an authentic act of civil disobedience and a moment in which to use their still broken democratic voices and your voice and your will will be broken.

Give them tokens, and you will become one.

In the teachable moments, the union’s hands are tied.

So, don’t teach the students. Don’t teach the students, and you really give the union something to stand behind and fight.

I’m told the unions are the reason “bad” teachers aren’t fired. I’m told my union will protect me.

Someone’s lying.

2 thoughts on “Things I Know 67 of 365: Hope’s waiting for Lefty

  1. Unions protect unions, not members. I saw that first-hand when I walked a picket line in support of striking teachers. It was a real eye-opener – and I stopped drinking the union kool-aid at that point.

  2. wow. this really brings clarity to the topic. had the same moment of epiphany when i heard ackerman on KYW talking about how said teacher had to be confined to the rubber room because, “she failed to put the safety of the students first…” wow, i thought…ackerman should have been confined to the rubber room when she failed to respond more quickly to the asian students that were being attacked in & after school last year. do as i say, not as i do…rationalization makes the world go 'round…but seriously, where did we get so far off track?

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