Tuesday, September 18, 2012

My Daddy Strikes for Us Little Tykes

Brett Herron, a Flint Expatriate who lived on Stevenson Street and graduated from Northern High School in 1990, reports from the front lines of the Chicago teachers' strike:
Months ago I vowed if we went on strike, my son Ian would march with a reproduction of the famous "little tyke" sign. Ian picketed, marched, and participated in rallies every day of the Chicago Teachers Strike. Actually, he first began protesting back in December at 6 months old. Anyway, during the strike many people asked about the sign and the original image included on it. I really enjoyed educating Chicagoans on the Sit-Down Strike and connecting good ol' Flint to the Windy City.


  1. Well...where do I start. It would be cute if the two strikes had alot in common. But they don't. The first strike was for fair pay and better working conditions. The second strike in this case is about how selfish the teachers are when so many people don't have a job or are stuggling to make ends meet while they pay the high teachers salaries. And to make things worse, they aren't teaching the kids sqaut.

  2. Really? Are they that different? Did you know that the sit-downers were some of the highest paid factory workers in the country when they struck? Read Sidney Fine's Sit-Down to learn more about it. And it always kills me how folks endlessly talk about how vital teachers are, then complain bitterly if they are paid on par with other professionals. Do you really want your kids taught be somebody making the same wage as the guy at the 7/11? What you're saying about the teachers sounds an awful lot like what the people opposing the sit-downers were saying in the thirties. After all, why should a bunch of unskilled, uneducated shop rats get more money? They were easy to replace and didn't really have any special skills. Based on your comment, I have to ask how far you made it school?

  3. Man, where do I start? It is a sad, sorry state of affairs when a society turns on teachers. Yes, those greedy teachers with their 2002 Hyundais, 2 bedroom houses, and 4 figure savings accounts. All the more pitiful when those who vilify educators take the side of zillionaire eduprenuers like Penny Pritzker, Rahm Emanuel, Geoffrey Canada, Michelle Rhee et al.

    Chicago teachers were thwarted in their bargaining efforts by a DEMOCRAT sponsored bill that disallowed negotiation on class size, school conditions, curriculum, and a host of other student related issues. Nevertheless, if you look at the actual contract it is dominated by gains for students and teachers. Our greedy money grab this year (after having our raise cancelled last year due to an "fiscal emergency" that never occurred) is a massive 3%.

    Confidential to those who are struggling to make end meet: Consider joining a union.

  4. You are right, it is sad when society turns on teachers. What makes it so sad is many teachers and mostly their unions have decided that their lives are so much more important than the children they teach and their parents. Many who don't have any savings accounts. I hear how teachers got into the profession because they love kids, or want to make a difference in kids’ lives. Well, they made that choice knowing they were not going be well off. So don't cry about not making enough money by carrying a sign, go out and get a better paying job. As for bargaining efforts, they should be based on your abilities and the market for what you do. Not on what you can take from the taxpayers.

    So, to sum it all up, you guys sound like teachers with an education not good enough to get you a good paying job without thugs to help you along. Your life is in their hands and you have become pitiful in your own ignorance.

    1. Your comment is perfect. It pretty much sums up the utter contempt so many have for teachers. Yet you acknowledge how vital they are to society and you get enraged if they don't excel at their job. You expect them to educate kids from broken homes where children often grow up with no emphasis on education. Or homes where parents are working so hard they aren't really there to help their kids learn. You want them to perform well at a very difficult and important task yet you think they should basically be well-educated volunteers who went into debt to get advanced degrees and work for peanuts and can get fired for any reason at any time. Your solution to this situation is brilliant. You're basically saying that anyone who wants to teach should also be willing to work for nothing. If you want a living wage and decent benefits, don't be a teacher. Maybe go work on Wall Street instead. Has it ever occurred to you that you might get better teachers if the job paid well and teachers were respected?

    2. I don’t believe people have contempt for teachers. They do however believe many teachers think they are something special or elitist. Earlier you posted that the shop people were making high wages at the time they were striking. Well, that maybe true but they were asking for a larger part of the pie that were profits. The Chicago teachers are also considered high wage workers at around $75,000 per year, plus benefits, plus retirement, and they get that working 7 months a year. All this with no worry about the end product or profits. Each teacher should be gauged on the merit of their work just like everyone else. No one should be protected from being fired if they do not produce. I conclude that if teachers showed their worth, they would not need to strike as a collective. Stand on your own and reap the benefits.

    3. I think that teachers should be elite and, if they are, broadly recognized as such. That's not quite the same thing as them being elitist, but there's a similarity.

  5. I've always been a fan of an approach inspired by Walter Mondale's "industrial policy" ideas, but just for employees of governments. This might be applied to all such employees, but as an explanation for how it would apply to teachers:

    1. Society would determine via one of the usually-ignored-but-not-this-time Expert Commissions, made up of stakeholders and experts, what the government employee type's particular job is worth to society as a ratio to private sector compensation provided to a basket of non-teacher, private sector job categories that are determined to require similar education, training and/or skills;

    2. By regulation, it would henceforth be required that private sector compensation in those fields be reported to the government;

    3. Every two or three years...maybe on a staggered schedule so that the same group of non-partisan, qualified bureaucrats could do the job for everywhere...the private sector compensation data would be surveyed on a regional basis. Maybe this would be by zones within a state or region, to take into account differences in cost of living and private sector compensation between different areas; this might for instance justify the much higher pay of Chicago and NYC teachers because of their areas' higher costs of living and thus higher private sector compensation. The government workers' compensation would be adjusted accordingly.

    Any such system, in the case of teachers employed in a traditional-school-year system, would have to take into account relative amounts of no-work time, i.e. vacation, considering that some teachers work summer school and a few take a separate summer job. It also would have to take into account differing amounts of time "at the workplace", and in the case of some teachers, the time not "on the job" that's required for checking student papers, documenting lesson plans, etc.; and also considerations like spending personal money to buy supplies that otherwise would go unprovided. Differences in retirement funding and other benefit provisions between government and private-sector employees would be taken into account. Private sector compensation surveys would be balanced between large and small employers in accord with the actuality of a given region, to take into account possible compensation differences between large unionized employers and smaller employers that are also part of the social fabric. All of those job differences would be hashed out by the Expert Commission.

    All of this would be legislated, and school boards could commit to it or not. In districts that commit to it, school funding tax revenues would be prioritized to teacher pay by law, over such other uses as administrator pay, service contracts and building maintenance; and teacher strikes and coordinated job actions via subterfuge would be illegal-with-enforcement-teeth, with no flexibility for judges to retract penalties.

    Thus government worker compensation would track private sector compensation...typically up during flush times when tax revenues are fattened, and possibly down during lean times when tax revenues take a hit.

    Taxpayers would no longer have a basis for complaining that they hadn't had a raise in X years because of the state of the economy, and here are the teachers (or whoever) demanding and getting Y percent more a year "just because they deserve it". Strong urban teacher unions no longer could...or would need to...apply their monopoly power to force local governments and societies to meet their demands.

    My guess would be that a few teachers might see total-compensation decreases, in particular districts like Chicago and NYC where teachers seem to be compensated unusually well relative to the private sector, but most would see increases.

  6. Ugh... that was hard to read.

    Problem is the strike in Chicago wasn't primarily about wages. Teachers are trying to defend public education from the privateers and eduprenuers- Emanuel, Duncan, Canada, Rhee, charter school operators, and curricula mills.

  7. > Problem is the strike in Chicago wasn't primarily about wages. <

    Heh. I'd think that a bunch of teachers would be aware that in the political arena, where the public perceptions they say they care about so much are in play...in addition to their employment...what they *say* the strike was about matters infinitely less than what the public concludes the strike was about, based on the demands and the settlement.

    When Carville said "it's the economy, stupid", he was talking about how the public has a rifle focus on who gets more money, and who less.

    If the public was to be convinced that economic greed wasn't the point and that alternate schooling approaches are a bad idea even though they claim to be more economically efficient for similar outcomes, perhaps a sizeable compensation increase shouldn't have been part of the demands and the settlement.

  8. CPS teachers accepted a 3% raise this year and a guaranteed 2% in the following two years. This is after our previous 4% raise was cancelled by Emanuel and after our required time on the clock was increased by 17%. The media rhetoric was "greedy teachers", but nobody is saying that now.

    Take a look at the contract- the unelected Chicago Board of Education, primarily made up of m/billionaires and local celebrities, was offering nothing. Teachers gave away large pay increases in return for better evaluations, somewhat better job security, and better conditions at the schools.

    Public support for the strike by actual Chicagoans was strong 66% for teachers, but the media tried to spin the story otherwise.


    1. What percentage of private sector jobs get automatic annual raises, irrespective of personal or collective productivity improvement, any more? Or ever got them, for that matter.

      Will there be an automatic 3%/2%/2% increase in tax revenues each year? Will the kids learn 3%/2%/2% more each year?

      And what is the point of the comment about the Board being made up of rich people and celebrities? Were people from those groups appointed because they donated to someone's campaign? If one assumes that a commitment to not spend money that isn't available is a job requirement, who would have been better, and why didn't they get the job instead?

      And the "large pay increases" that the teachers gave away...even larger than 3%/2%/2%? How did they get that "right", and how would those "large pay increases" have been paid for?

      Just asking.


Thanks for commenting. I moderate comments, so it may take a while for your comment to appear. You might enjoy my book about Flint called "Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City," a Michigan Notable Book for 2014 and a finalist for the 33rd Annual Northern California Book Award for Creative NonFiction. Filmmaker Michael Moore described Teardown as "a brilliant chronicle of the Mad Maxization of a once-great American city." More information about Teardown is available at www.teardownbook.com.