Thousands of kids headed back to the classroom this week in the Chicago-land area, but how long will it last? A potential strike could take place in as little as six days if the Chicago Teacher’s Union and school district officials don’t reach an agreement on the terms of a new contract – including a four percent pay increase that Mayor Rahm Emanuel rescinded.
Just last year, a similar situation unfolded in Madison, Wisconsin, as teachers stormed the capitol building protesting Governor Scott Walker for eliminating collective bargaining rights – a protest I witnessed firsthand and spoke to several teachers about.
The teachers in Wisconsin who I spoke to all told me they had the right to collective bargaining and to their jobs. When I asked them where job performance fit into the equation, I barely got a reply. They looked at me as though they didn’t understand the question. That’s one of the biggest problems unions create: that members believe they have a right to a job, like it’s an entitlement awarded at birth.
It’s the same situation in Chicago. The state of Illinois has an unemployment rate of 8.9%, and the teachers there should be thankful for their jobs. Let the teachers strike! And if they do, I can promise you there are plenty of unemployed teachers who are sitting at home right now trying to figure out how to make ends meet, who would be ready to fill those vacancies in a heartbeat – at the current rate of pay.
What’s worse is the real losers in this scenario are the children. We’re talking about roughly 400,000 students who are in jeopardy. Not only could a strike put them behind, it could have long-term ramifications that could include delaying the college admissions process – but right, it’s all about the money.
Union workers have become spoiled with tenure and guaranteed work based on every factor outside of job performance and results. Don’t get me wrong: there was a time when employers abused their power and unions leveled the playing field through leverage. They gave the little guy a voice, and it worked. Joe Lunch Bucket, who 20 years ago needed a union to be heard, now has the power to cause a national uproar if he is mistreated in any way. This is a good thing, yet we have a new problem: The Union leaders and members who refuse to give up their stranglehold on industry and government.
The abuse of power is now coming from the unions instead of employers. The private sector has weeded out most of this nonsense in recent years, with unions only representing 7.5% of private sector employees. The public sector is still bloated with 43% of public employees represented by unions. Unions are another archaic American institution that served a purpose in a bygone era and should be buried with the dead. Fortunately, the days of businesses running rough-shod over workers are gone. In the era of Twitter, Facebook, cell phones with cameras and 24 hour news, the power is in the hands of the people.
If the teachers of Chicago want to earn more money, bullying their employer with a mob isn’t the answer. Production is. More service equals more money. The future belongs to the states who become Right to Work states, where unions have no power and cannot bully businesses into hiring workers simply because they live in the neighborhood and pay dues.
The delusional thinking on unions is that they are necessary in modern-day America. Critical thinking says they served their purpose in the past and it’s time for them to go.
As always, I look forward to your comments.
Steve Siebold, CSP