All around the state of Michigan, when teachers aren’t talking about their NCAA brackets, the conversation is the coming teacher’s strike. These conversations are getting tougher and tougher on me, because I have a unique position among government employees- whereas most teachers support ‘their union’, I make a distinction- I defend and support my local union and its actions, but disagree with the actions of my state union, and attack the actions of my national union. You see, there are important differences between local, state, and national teachers unions- differences in who is in them, what they do, and what they are fighting for- and those differences are important enough that my position on each level is clearly different (as should yours, if I make the argument successfully).
My local union is composed of the teachers in my district. These people are my colleagues; I know them, they know me, and more importantly, we both know what the reality of the situation is. We know what funds the district at the local level- whether we have a rural town, a big city, a shopping mall, an important factory, etc- and we know where that money is going- what buildings have to maintained, transportation costs, new stadiums, fancy administration buildings, teacher salaries, etc. At the local level, my union serves a vital and important service- collectively organizing and bargaining on behalf of all the teachers for salaries, benefits, and working conditions in the district with the local administration and school board. They bargain tough and fair, we bargain tough and fair, and society is the winner. We represent the community and are part of the community, and so we don’t try to take advantage of the community and they don’t try to take advantage of us (or if that does happen, it gets real ugly and everyone is a loser).
My state union (MEA) is composed of people who derive their salaries and pay and benefits on the backs of the teachers who are working hard to teach children. These people work in the state capitol mostly, although there are mysterious field offices too scattered about the state, employing people who do something or other. They have intermittent contact with the districts that they serve, meeting with teachers every now and then or walking through a building, but they do not know the districts or the teachers, and so don’t know where the money is coming from or where the money is going. Oh, they know they want more money- they hammer away at funds and balances trying to move numbers around, but the numbers mean nothing to them since they don’t actually represent anything. And they really don’t know why they want more money- they know more money is good because more money means more union dues and so they get a higher salary and more benefits- but they don’t actually know where the more money they fight for actually goes- whether it is to repay a furlough day, to reinstate a step increase, to create a longevity bonus, to cover some sort of health benefit, to pay disability pay for a sick colleague, or anything else. They just know it is more money, and so they fight for it. The state union has little incentive to maintain the communities that they do not know, and the state government has little incentive to maintain the union that they do not know, and so the two fight ugly and dirty and society is less so because of this.
My national union (the NEA) is composed of people who derive their salaries and benefits from dues paid by teachers in the classroom working hard, and they resemble in many ways the state union, except that they are even further removed from teachers and the communities they serve and so care less about them. The nation union blows money sponsoring experts who talk about sexualizing children at earlier ages, recommends books to teachers like Rules for Radicals, and spends its time going to fancy dinners to lobby the national government to transfer more of societies wealth to ‘education’, even though the national union is now so far removed from ‘education’ that it knows not what it speaks about. Conferences sponsored by the NEA are far disconnected from the reality of the situation that teachers experience and focus on topics and subjects that are of only marginal importance to them. Since the national union serves only one purpose- redirect wealth from the national government- and this purpose is rather corrupt, it pretends it is something more, and its pretentiousness shows. Society suffers with the existence of the NEA, and this is yet more reason why the NEA, the Department of Education, and national funding for education all need to be done away with- they are all too disconnected to the local community.
Our lunch room conversations inevitably dissolve into me trying to dance the delicate dance of defending the actions of my local union while calling into question the actions of my state union and harshly criticizing the actions of my national union, and that dance is a tough dance that I shouldn’t have to perform. My local should be the focus- teachers should be the focus, and everything else should support and assist them. But like most government workers, the MEA and NEA is now part of the entitled class, which feels that others exist to serve them, rather than the other way around. Changes need to be made.
Original Post: A Conservative Teacher