Teachers unions not broken

 

 Teachers are “taking back control of their profession” bleats Jami Lund, employee of the extremist and inappropriately labeled organization, the Freedom Foundation. Which begs the question, when did they lose control? For the majority of teachers in our state, this suggestion that teachers don’t have control, don’t have a voice, and don’t have a choice is not merely offensive, it is an outrageous lie. When it comes to the truth, the Freedom Foundation is on the wrong side of history.

 The WEA is a democratic organization just like every other labor organization is in which every member has an equal voice in their representation from contract proposals to the final product to the very issue of representation at all. In fact, Jami Lund actually agrees with this as he points out that there have been a few small conservative districts that have opted to exercise those rights.

 However, even if these small rural conservative districts make such decisions to withdraw, it is worth asking, how much of the decision was without the influence of money and power that comes from out of state coffers? From the multi-billion dollar corporations and foundations whose stated goals are quite simple; defund labor organizations at all costs.

 Now why would they want to do this? The answer is relatively simple but is part of a much larger, coordinated effort that has nothing to do with grass roots. Labor organizations do in fact lobby and otherwise participate in the political process and where they do endorse politicians across the political spectrum, this is the issue with groups like the Freedom Foundation and the Bradley Foundation. These organizations have no interest in a balanced political process and in a fair bit of irony, what they are after is nothing short of political domination in an extremely monopolistic way. These organizations don’t just want our political process to be dominated by only conservative republicans though, there is a specific caliber of extremist right wing political dogma they are after which does not represent where the majority of Americans are.

 It is about politics. It’s about dismantling a balance of political thought that has been the cornerstone of what makes our democratic institutions a beacon to the rest of the world.

 While few facts are presented by Jami Lund he does point out the formation of associations in a few small rural areas. Now, an association must still register with the Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC) as an association. Associations still collect dues for representational purposes and can and do lobby politically for their professions and issues. Associations can even grow…

 At some point, an association providing a democratic voice for workers in the workplace will be at odds with the Freedom Foundation. While they would like the reader to believe that this is just about the evil, monopolistic, dictatorial WEA and it’s powerful union bosses (one of their favorite terms), this is completely untrue.

 The Freedom Foundation, their corporate backers are about one thing and one thing only- unchecked wealth. Remove labor organizations and the framework they have provided and nothing stands in the way of the rapid decline in wages and benefits and safe working conditions. As wages and benefits are stripped, shareholder profits and CEO pay goes up and so widens the income inequality that exists in our country at an unprecedented level not seen since the Gilded Age.

 Sadly, we are already in that decline as these multi-billion dollar efforts have convinced some that labor organizations are unneeded and the parallels between wage decline, stagnation and union density decline are quite clear and convincing.

 “Locally-controlled unionism for the 21st century” -Jami Lund says. The funny thing is, if Jami Lund and the Freedom Foundation were truthful in their support of this concept we wouldn’t be very far apart at all because every single one of my “union boss” colleagues spends the majority of their efforts on ways to engage and solicit the needed input from their members at the local level.

 No evidence suggests that the Freedom Foundation supports the average teacher or their issues, just the contrary. Lund himself has argued that giving teachers raises and improving their benefits isn’t beneficial in classrooms, and he has fought against them as a school board member. He has even argued that teachers should take pay cuts to prevent shortened school years. Yet, as TIME reported at the beginning of this school year, teachers are spending $1.6 billion a year out of their own pockets to buy school supplies for their students. To summarize:

 Lund and the Freedom Foundation want to pay teachers less and make them work more. Lund and the Freedom Foundation also support privatizing our education system, sending our tax dollars to private religious schools instead of to our public school classrooms. While they cloak their privatization support in the language of “school choice,” the truth is this: every tax dollar spent unconstitutionally propping up private, religious schools is a dollar that isn’t being invested in public schools that benefit all of our children.

 When these folks from the Freedom Foundation make visits into our community, politely ask them to stop pedaling their outside, politically motivated propaganda in our local communities. What we have here in North Central Washington isn’t perfect, but it isn’t broken either.

 

Paul Parmley

President, 

NCW Labor Council

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