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Anti-union October 5, 2016

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

If you want a vision of the future, and why it is absolutely imperative to divert from that path, look no further than this report from Slate.com on charter schools in the US and how they treat efforts by teachers to unionise. Indeed consider just how abysmal workers rights are in the US as described in the following paragraph.

…speaking up can feel risky for nonunionized charter teachers. Indeed, one of the animating impulses behind the push for more charter schools and the broader school-reform movement has been an antipathy toward some of the entrenched institutions of public education—like teachers unions and the teacher protections they champion, which many charter advocates often see as an impediment to accountability and student achievement. Unlike their counterparts in traditional public schools, charter teachers work for private companies or nonprofits, which typically hire them on annual contracts and are legally allowed to fire them without cause or a formal grievance process.

There is a description of how one union member seeking to unionise colleagues by handing out leaflets ‘near the parking lot of a school building’ was…

…faced [by] the sheriff. Even though she was not violating any laws, he told her that the head of her school wanted her to leave the premises. Mernick told him she “had a protected right” to be there. And she was clear that her employer, Alliance, which had already been slapped with a preliminary injunction and a temporary restraining order for interfering with union organizing, “knows I’m allowed to be doing this.”


…that didn’t end the encounter, during which Mernick and the other organizer were threatened with the possibility of arrest for trespassing. Finally, after about 45 minutes, the head of the school emerged to tell them they could continue leafleting until 9 a.m., when the professional development for new teachers was set to start. (Teachers and organizers are allowed to talk to employees on campus during nonworking hours but are barred from doing so on company time.) The experience left Mernick shaken. In using law enforcement to try to intimidate her, her boss had turned Mernick’s outreach into a public example of what interested teachers might face if they joined the fight.

I’ve faced problems unionising workplaces, but never had the police called. And never had the sense that I was in a context where that could ever be a realistic outcome. Small wonder that only 7% of US charter schools are unionised.

Telling too the detail about how charter schools attempt to ‘reach’ students with anti-union messages.

As always the power imbalance between employer(s) and workers is manifest. One can only applaud the teacher mentioned in the piece above:

Though Mernick is still shook up by her encounter with the sheriff, she says she’ll keep pushing. “I will be in this as long as it takes.”


1. Gewerkschaftler - October 5, 2016

The coming teacher’s strike in Chicago could be a landmark in the re-invention of trades unionism in the US.

The 99% have had enough and aren’t going to take it any more.


2. yourcousin - October 6, 2016

Who taught these people how to organize? I can think of no greater indictment of modern American labor than the fact that leafleting by active employees of a targeted workplace is seen as worthwhile or productive. Any organizer worth their salt will tell you that’s as stupid as it gets.

I for one find the inability and down right unwillingness of the modern business unions to actually organize to be infuriating when situations like this exist. I have had direct experience with a shop of two hundred workers where we had 50+ onboard for organizing and who were dues paying members. When it became clear that a radical union was too much for some folks we tried to give the AFT (American Federation of Teachers) the campaign. The workers wanted it and we were willing to help support a transition. The only thing they ever did was send some copies of their magazine. Less than worthless.


WorldbyStorm - October 6, 2016

There’s a lot in what you say though I’m loath to criticise someone for doing their best even if badly trained. And the broader point of the hurdles in place against unionisation stands I think.


Gewerkschaftler - October 6, 2016

All these rusty skills need to be relearned.

I remember my father (a shop steward) in the 1990s saying ruefully ‘We’re going to have to reinvent it all again.”

I don’t think it’s all bad however, I’ve been impressed with what I’ve seen of at least some of the new generation of organisers in the US.


3. yourcousin - October 6, 2016

What frustrates me is that organized labor is standing on the brink of oblivion and far too many organizations refuse to think outside the box or even are able to reinvent the wheel. Most groupings like the National Education Association are legacy unions which seem to only exist due to the fact that they were formed when unionization rates were high. The rise of charter schools should not be an obstacle to organizing the workers. And while I certainly appreciate folks with enthusiasm for organizing this is not Norma Rae. Someone who knew better should of stepped in but again I’m to the point where I’m not sure there are folks who know how to actually organize new workers as opposed to acting as member services.


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