Triumph of the Unions

Jun 4, 2018 by

The New York Post, which reviles public school teachers and all they stand for and do, recently redeemed itself for one day by publishing an investigative report on a topic that has been taboo: the Department of Education’s strict policy of covering for abusive principals. The extent and vigor of their tolerance is directly proportional to the venality of the wrongdoing.
But the Post’s heartbeat righted itself and they’re back to scurrilous attacks on their usual targets.
 
Last week they cited a US Census statistic that New York spends more money per elementary and secondary student ( note: the word “student” is banned in charter schools. Every pre-K kid is already called a “scholar”) than does any other state. The implication is that taxpayers are getting minimal value for their extravagant investment in teacher salaries.
 
This specious connection is stubbornly prevalent in the minds of the general public which is either genuinely uninformed or deliberately gullible, no matter how often, thoroughly and plainly the budget of the Department of Education is explained.
 
If New York spends the most money per student among all states, yet more than half our students graduate unprepared, who does the New York Post inevitably and with amazing repetitiousness blame?  “Pernicious union power”, naturally!
 
They equate strong unions with the shortchanging of students, the mollycoddling of felons, the sabotage of bold new ideas and the consumption of the lion’s share of the bloated budget. These vile fallacies are gospel among the anti-public school agitators whose resentment is driven largely, though not solely, by an ingrained loathing of unions.
 
The New York Post reserves some of its most putrid space for op-ed columns, such as the recent specimen by Akash Chougule of Americans For Prosperity,  an extremist libertarian group, funded by the Koch brothers. Last week he blamed workers for the current threats to the labor movement.
 
Referring to the imminent US Supreme Court ruling in the Janus case, which will likely allow workers to refuse to pay union dues while being entitled to at least some of the benefits of membership enabled by members in good-standing, the Americans For Prosperity insists that those opt-outers are not free-riders but “forced riders”.  The AFP feels that individual workers who subsist paycheck-to-paycheck would much prefer to stand alone as they engage the full flush of management on matters impacting their standard of living and quality of life.
 
They’d feel more secure and confident putting their faith i n the generous hearts of their bosses, to which the unions currently block access, according to he Americans for Prosperity, which opposes minimum wages, Medicaid for the indigent, and intervention to protect the environment.
 
Mr. Chougule concludes that the “negative side-effects of Janus bemoaned by organized Labor could be avoided if the unions would simply provide value to members and listen to them…”
 
Aw, the hardened libertarian has the unions’ interests at heart, eh?
 
In fact, the Americans for Progress sees no value in workers’ rights and thinks that by securing and strengthening them for their members , they are violating those members’ wishes.
 
“Total compensation for state employees…is far higher than for comparable private sector workers”, Mr. Chougule notes, hardly concealing his conviction that a massive loss of union membership is something to be relished or, as Shakespeare might have said, “devoutly to be wished”.
 
In a post-Janus apocalypse, when some former union members flee the defensive Union umbrella and voluntarily expose themselves to the deluge of heady management clout, they will be blithely free to bargain for themselves. And what will be the result, according to Mr. Chougule?  It would “trigger a $16.8 billion plunge in wages and benefits” and would bring “savings ( that would be) good for states’ fiscal health”.
 
“Prosperity”  breaking the backs of its creators is an irony lost on the Americans For Prosperity tax-exempt entity.
 
The Janus decision will likely be a victory for anti-Americanism.  Probably the balance will be tipped by Justice Gorsuch as it was in another anti-union Supreme Court ruling last week.
 
Because of the outcome of that case,  there will be prohibitions on some workers from filing class action lawsuits about wage complaints. Instead they will need to go the route of arbitration, which historically has been almost a rubber-stamp for employers.
 
Now the anchovy must combat the shark in open seas.
 
“What doesn’t kill us only makes us stronger”. Let that solace galvanize us.
 
The looming Janus ruling will test whether we’re worthy of the great Union experiment. There will be some short-term trauma, but within a few years at most, we will re-define and re-discover ourselves as necessary
 
We will be redeemed, prosperous and powerful.
 
Ron Isaac
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