— Bud Norman
— Bud Norman
Summer vacation has been indefinitely extended for the public schoolchildren of Chicago, a result of a strike by the school teachers’ union in that troubled city, and most of them probably don’t mind at all. For almost everybody else, though, the strike is an absurd nuisance.
The Chicago Teachers Union called for the strike after rejecting Mayor Rahm Emmanuel’s offer of a 16 percent raise over four years in exchange for requirements that teachers pay more for their health insurance and submit to periodic evaluations of the membership’s teaching skills and perhaps even face eventual firing if the skills are found wanting. Given that the average teacher in the Chicago public school system makes $76,000 per year, which is about $29,000 per year more than the average Chicago taxpayer, and that they only pay 3 percent of their health care costs, which is a number the average Chicago taxpayer will envy, and that only 15 percent of the average teacher’s fourth grade students can read and that only 56 percent of his students will ever hold a meaningless high school diploma, the offer seems all too generous. Indeed, the union’s position is so extreme, so unreasonable, so outrageous that not even Rahm Emmanuel could accept it.
The strike is not only denying nearly 400,000 young Chicagoans an education, such as it is in that city, it is also inconveniencing parents, causing hunger among a large of number of students who had come to rely on the school system for regular meals, and stretching the resources of a police force that was already unable to stem a catastrophic wave of murders and other violent crimes. With a whopping 71 percent of budget-beleaguered Illinois’ educational budget already devoted to retired teachers’ pensions, even worse consequences of a big teachers’ union win will likely be felt in years to come.
Chicago’s reliably left-wing media had no trouble finding parents who support the strike, but we suspect that if they’d bothered to look they would have also found many more who are opposed. Although teachers may not be among the hated 1 percent they are at least well compensated enough to resented by liberals who have been conditioned to resent the better-off, and whatever conservatives remain in the city are bound to be outraged by almost every aspect of strike. The longer the strike lingers and parents have to figure out what to do with their unruly brats, public is bound to become increasingly angrier.
Which also creates a problem for Barack Obama. Because Emmanuel was once a key member of Obama’s administration, and because Obama is a pure product of Chicago’s notorious political machine, he can’t speak out against the city’s offer. On the other hand, because he’s a Democratic politician, he can’t speak out against a teachers’ union. Predictably enough, he has resolved this dilemma by courageously not speaking out at all.
— Bud Norman
There’s something slightly melancholy about Labor Day. The holiday announces the end of the lazy days of summer, when the children return to school, the adults turn their attention to politics and other unpleasant chores, and the days grow short as we reach September.
There’s an ambivalence about the meaning of the holiday, too. Many people regard the day as an honor to all those who labor under the curse of Adam, as a good a cause for celebration as any, but in fact the holiday is intended to honor the capital-L Labor of the union movement, which hardly seems worth honoring at all.
Whatever beneficial role the union movement might have played in the past, it has now fallen into widespread and well-deserved disrepute. Membership in private sector unions is at a historic low and falling, the vast majority of the working class that the unions claim to represent want nothing to do with them, and the union bosses are regarded with a low level of trust. Some of the unions still have enough political clout to wind up in control of General Motors, but that could soon prove temporary.
The public sector unions remain a formidable force, but they might have also reached a peak of influence. After losing the recall election to the heroically union-busting governor earlier this year in Wisconsin, birthplace of the public sector union and home to a larger-than-usual number of leftist loons, they seem to be in an unlikely position to prevail in the inevitable upcoming battles with other governors and state legislatures. Without the government-granted power of coercion they seem to shed members at a rapid rate, and that is likely to become the norm. The teachers’ unions are also powerful, and a major impediment to the much needed reforms, but even they suddenly seem vulnerable to scrutiny by a public that can’t help noticing how very stupid the young people seem these days.
— Bud Norman