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July 2, 2011: National Education Association (NEA) goes to war

NEA Secretary-Treasurer Becky Pringle says that “we cannot send our significant army to war unarmed” in reference to the political battles that the union will be fighting in the coming year.

I thought the Democrats and their allies had called for a softening of the political rhetoric.  Apparently the NEA did not get that memo from Democratic operatives.  The NEA believes war has arrived in the state capitals as governors and legislators seek to bring spending and deficits under control.  The NEA must do battle for its members and maintain spending while it cuts its own expenses (a proposed $17 million from this year’s budget). 

Education Week reports that the NEA plans to levy a $10-per-member fee this coming school year (2011-2012) to support its Ballot Initiative/Legislative Crisis Fund.  This money is to be used to support state teacher unions that are facing legislative challenges.  This will provide political lobbying money to be used in ‘emergency’ situations such as those states that seek to limit union bargaining power or reduce teacher benefits.

The NEA is feeling the loss of membership as the Obama stimulus money that provided teacher jobs will not be forthcoming in this year’s budget.  The NEA lost 20,000 members last year and expects to lose another 10,000 this year.  Remember this money was payback to the teacher unions for their support of candidate Obama.

Source:  Stephen Sawchuk, “NEA Committee Proposes $17 Million in Budget Cuts,” Education Week’s blog, July 1, 2011.



Local teacher unions are also at war with school boards.  They label opponents “anti-education” and even parody them as terrorists (Osama bin ________ , simply plug in your school board director’s name).   Such attacks come straight from the NEA’s model of industrial unionization in which the goal of the union is to get all it can from the taxpayers with as little extra work as possible (“teachers already do plenty of work”, so goes the argument).

If the American economy is in a long-term slow or no-growth economic pattern, then things will have to change with regard to public employee compensation.  The old industrial-union model will break down and increasingly bitter battles will be fought over public school funding. 

I propose the following changes in public school teacher unions-associations and school boards:

1. Discard the industrial-union model that the NEA adopted for teacher associations by disavowing all teacher strikes.  Strikes are aimed at children and their parents and ultimately hurt them in the end.  Adopt a “no harm to my neighbor” philosophy. 


·     2. Discontinue affiliation with the state and national unions and create a local association of teachers.  This will give teachers a salary increase of at least $500 each year.  If individual teachers want the PSEA or NEA to lobby for them, then let them join such groups voluntarily, not as a condition of employment. 


·     3. Reduce the adversarial approach to bargaining where each side brings in their own out-of-town, high-priced lawyers to negotiate terms.  Move to reliance on local, joint arbitration by non-partisan members of the community (lawyers if you like) who are dedicated to the well-being of all concerned. 


·     4. School boards need a teacher perspective represented at their meetings.  School boards easily make decisions without understanding the actual consequences for the classroom.  Bring on the board a non-voting teacher who can provide that perspective. 


·     5. School boards need help in tackling difficult, long-range financial challenges.  They should create advisory boards made up of wise, respected citizens who will have this long- range interest and not a short-term political goal. 


The current industrial-union and adversarial model is doing irreparable harm to communities that are struggling through this economic recession and slow-down.  Teacher reputations are being harmed as the unions press for more and more during economic hard times.  Threats of teacher strikes poison the community and the education environment.  Reactionary school boards who demean and insult teachers further antagonize the teachers and the community. 

It is time to move to a different model of teacher-school board-taxpayer relations. 

 3-18-11: Waynesboro Area Education Association

Dear WAEA,

I believe a strike by the WAEA will prove harmful to teachers in the long-run.  The nation and the states have entered into a new economic reality that is beginning to dawn on more and more people.  The tax-payers are in no mood for increased taxes or strikes by public workers.  The following news article from the CATO Institute illustrates my point. 

Posted By David Boaz On March 16, 2011 @ 10:41 am In Government and Politics,Tax and Budget Policy  The Miami Herald:

“Voters swept Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez out of office by a stunning margin Tuesday [88 percent], capping a dramatic collapse for a politician who was given increased authority by voters four years ago to clean up much-maligned county government but was ushered out in the largest recall of a local politician in U.S. history.

The spectacular fall from power comes after two years of missteps, ranging from granting top staffers big pay hikes to construction of a publicly funded stadium for the Florida Marlins to implementation of a property-tax rate increase that outraged an electorate struggling through an ugly recession....

Tuesday’s vote served notice that the public is thirsting for widespread reform at County Hall, long dominated by entrenched politicians and insiders. County Commissioner Natacha Seijas was similarly recalled Tuesday in a resounding defeat. For 18 years she represented a district that includes Miami Lakes and Hialeah and was widely regarded as the most powerful politician on the commission.

The two ousters come on the heels of Dorrin Rolle’s defeat in November, which marked the first time a sitting county commissioner has been defeated in 16 years.  More than 200,000 people cast votes in the election.  Miami is no right-wing hotbed. Obama got 58 percent of the vote there. This should worry tax-hikers everywhere.”  (emphasis mine)

A strike by the teachers’ union in Waynesboro will likely damage teacher credibility in this community.  Even friends of the teachers will be disappointed in such an action. 

The November election will settle this contract dispute by indicating the direction the new board will take in the future.  Do you really think that a strike will influence voters to elect candidate favorable to the teachers? 

I suggest that you follow the lead of the PSEA president who recognizes the political climate.  Accept a one-year pay freeze. 

  12-31-10: Public School Teacher Striking
House Bill 1369 Strike-Free Educational Act.  Sponsored by 
Representative Todd Rock (R-Franklin).  This legislation would outlaw 
strikes by public school teachers.  Included in the legislation is the 

Strikes and lockouts are illegal.
Financial penalties:
   $5,000 individual fine per incident for inciting strike
   Teachers lose two days of pay per day of illegal strike
   Union loses dues check-off privilege for one year

"Contract proposals must be made public and if both sides have not 
agreed to a new contract by June 16, then four negotiating sessions 
per month is mandated.  In addition, both sides shall place their 
negotiators in front of the public at town-hall meetings, every six 
weeks, to explain their positions and answer questions.  This 
increased level of public transparency is designed to encourage 
settlement without artificially forcing it via binding arbitration.  
Any unreasonable negotiating position would be exposed to public 

Contact the following website  for more information:
 12-17-10: Strikes by public school teachers


What is a strike in the private sector?

In the private sector a strike by a union is for the purpose of pressuring management to give in to union demands.  Pressure comes in the way of lost business revenues and lost profits to shareholders, lost business to competitors, public disapproval and lost confidence of consumers.  A strike can threaten long-term business viability.

A strike is a form of punishment inflicted upon a company for its intransigence.  It is meant to inflict harm and distress.  Short-term union goals (wages, benefits, work rules) may inflict long-term hardship on a company, so unions must be careful how much punishment they inflict. 

In this competition between labor and management there does not appear to be an obvious ethical high ground.  Though there may be private sector strikes where public safety is in jeopardy (strikes during times of war), generally that is not the case.  Both sides are competing for limited profits and hope to increase their wealth. 

Public sector strikes.

Strikes by public service workers do raise obvious ethical concerns.  Transportation workers have a lot of leverage when they strike.  The punishment falls on the users of public transportation whose livelihood may be threatened.  This is especially the case for poor and low-income workers who rely on public transportation.  Such consumers will demand that a contract be quickly settled. 

Likewise, when public hospital nurses strike it is the sick and their families who are threatened.  When police officers and other public security officers strike, it is the safety of the general public that is threatened.  In such circumstances the most vulnerable in society are threatened. 

Public school teacher strikes.

Strikes by public school teachers are also meant to inflict pain in order to move management to accept union terms.  This is the same industrial-union model used in the private sector. 

Who is threatened when public school teachers strike?  Who is supposed to feel the pain and pressure of a strike?  It is children and their parents.  The union hopes that parents and community will pressure the school board to come to terms.  Striking teachers hope that the school board feels political pain, but they use children, parents and grandparents to accomplish this goal. 

How is punishment inflicted on children and parents?  Children will likely enjoy the days off (until they make up the days in late June).  Parents will be hurt because many will have to scramble to provide child care because of work schedules.  Single parents may feel the pain most acutely because they may have to take off work to care for children.  Some children may simply be left at home without adequate supervision.  Disrupted work and school schedules will be felt most intensely by low-income parents who have few child-care options.  Seniors hoping to graduate in early June may have post-high school plans disrupted and parents and care-givers may have to adjust summer schedules. 

Ethical considerations. 

What ethical principle is involved in a public school teacher strike?  As a Christian I am commanded to love my neighbor and do no harm to my neighbor.  This applies especially to the most vulnerable of my neighbors.  If my analysis of a strike is correct then I cannot strike without violating my conscience. 

Though I approach this as a Christian, people of other religious faiths and those of no religious faith can embrace this ethical principle of doing no harm to a neighbor.   This is the most basic ethical principle in our constitutional republic.  It is the glue that holds our society together.  When teachers violate this most basic ethical principle what are they teaching children? 

A teachers’ union that chooses to strike may gain short-term advantage, but it damages its ethical image in the long term.  The teachers I have worked with over the years have shown their care for children in hundreds of ways.  They are generally highly ethical and caring people.  Allowing themselves to be herded along by the industrial-union model of the teacher union only harms themselves by undermining their ethical credibility. 

It would be better for teachers to suffer some material loss than for them to teach children that ethical principle can be jettisoned for personal gain.  Watching your kindergarten teacher on a picket line screaming for more money may leave a more lasting impression on children than all her kindnesses in the classroom. 



Myron Lieberman, "The Teacher Unions:  How the NEA and AFT Sabotage 
Reform and Hold Students, Parents, Teachers, and Taxpayers Hostage to 
Bureaucracy."  The Free Press, 1997.

Lieberman is a life-time members of the NEA. He was a chief negotiator 
for union contracts in various states.  He trained teachers as union