Why Teachers Union Are Vital: Two Case Histories

Jun 19, 2018 by

Unions try to bully management by having their members stick together and fight dirty to strong-arm their bosses into getting their way, even though their bosses have superior judgment and authority and will do what is best without interference.
Oh yeah?
Here are two illustrations of how union “bullying” triumphed over ugly machinations of management.
A young teacher whose competence in the classroom was never questioned, was the single parent of a severely handicapped child. The teacher underwent radical surgery for tongue cancer and begged her doctors for almost immediate return to her classroom because she loved her students and missed working with them.
Her speech was impaired because of the operation, but although it made her lessons a bit harder to follow,  with a little effort, she was perfectly intelligible to attentive students. Most of them met the challenge because they cared to.They had the maturity not to create a phony problem as an excuse for their own failure.
But a few students banded together against the teacher and duped their parents into spreading a petition calling for the teacher’s removal on the grounds that their kids couldn’t make sense of what she said. It almost succeeded, because some politically -connected parents had signed on to it and the untenured principal wanted to score brownie points with them.
The petitioners and the cowardly administrator who were quite willing to sacrifice a decent teacher’s career and safety net for her family were thwarted by the teachers union.
The union quashed the threat like the finest NHL goalie stopping a flying puck in the decisive seconds of a Stanley Cup playoff. The union fought smart and the connivers were frustrated.
It should be noted, though, that citywide, the great majority of the time, parents and the teachers are on the same page on educational issues and are allies in the struggle to enable their kids to get a quality education.
The second example of how the teachers union at this school demonstrated the reason why its existence is crucial to the achievement of justice involved a music teacher who was baited and trapped by an administrator seeking to get rid of him for reasons unrelated to his professional performance or personal behavior.
He was a consummate instructor of orchestra and band classes who having been a child prodigy, grew up to be a professional musician whose own compositions were performed in Carnegie Hall. His supervisor blithely admitted that he knew nothing about the subject, but felt qualified to evaluate the teacher because the school system so entitled him.
The music teacher was not only highly credentialed, but he was popular with student and their parents and much respected by colleagues for the results he achieved. He was compliant with Department of Education regulations and had never received an adverse write up until now.
His immediate supervisor, an assistant principal, was overheard in October admitting that he was going to do “whatever it takes” to produce what would suffice as evidence to justify a poor annual performance review in June.
His reason was unrelated to the teacher’s performance in class or relationships in or out of school.  It was a business decision. The  music teacher’s position was coveted by a close family member of an influential DOE bureaucrat and the principal was strongly encouraged to make room for her.
The principal owed the bureaucrat for past favors and depended on him for future ones, so it was a “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” situation. He was a decent but weak personality who felt he had to do his master’s bidding in order to protect himself. Without malicious intent he nonetheless gave an implicitly malicious order to the assistant principal who was the music teacher’s immediate supervisor: by any means necessary,gather evidence that could be used to get the teacher out.
The teachers union was a powerful presence in that school, and its representative got wind of much of what was happening and surmised the rest. He warned the principal that if the harassment order was carried out, there would be hell to pay. Labor peace cannot be assured in the presence of wilful and egregious violations.
The union’s chapter leader’s ultimatum was semi-graciously received by the principal
The union’s chapter leader demanded that the principal supersede the music teacher’s supervising assistant principal and personally supervise the music teacher and be responsible for preparing his evaluations. The principal yielded, but paid a heavy price for bucking the DOE bureaucrat.
The above two case histories underscore the moral necessity of having a tough righteous union role in every school. And post Janus, this inescapable truth will be felt more poignantly and keenly than ever and this awareness will be the fountainhead and guarantor of unprecedented unity!
Ron Isaac
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