“The proper business of a labor union is to get higher wages, better hours, and good shop conditions for the workmen. But when labor en masse plunks its vote for its own party, then the spirit of party loyalty begins to obscure labor’s objectives—high wages, short hours, decent shop conditions. Thus class-conscious labor leaders become more interested in their party welfare than in the fundamental objectives of the labor unions. So we shall have the class-conscious political worker trading his vote not for the immediate objective of wages, hours, and shop conditions, but for power for his political labor boss.” —William Allen White, September 20, 1937, speech
Perspective of a Former Union Shop Stewart
I am a member of the teacher union in my school district, but not because the union has earned my dues payments. I am legally coerced into paying those dues, like it or not. At one point in my teaching career, before accepting my current position, I was a union shop steward at the high school where I worked—one of the few conservative chapter chairs in the district. Teachers elected me, because I promised to be their man, not the union’s.
Contrary to popular belief, not every California teacher is an anti-freedom statist, but the majority of them who are can create an environment at many schools that makes it unsafe for conservative teachers to speak out politically, lest they risk their cars being keyed—or even physical harm to themselves. At the high school where I was union leader, I strove to create a safe environment for teacher political talk. I refused to endorse union candidates, instead choosing to distribute biographical information, voting records, and political positions of all candidates. But I always promoted pro-business policies that would increase growth and tax collections that would enable increases in teacher salaries, as well as Bill-of-Rights protections in the Constitution that teachers could very well lose, if statist progressives succeed in their freedom-killing agenda to restrain free-speech and free-press rights.
The Economics of Teacher Pay Raises
For teachers to receive pay raises, businesses need to be paying more in taxes. This means that the state needs to maintain a low-tax, pro-growth business environment. A lower tax burden helps businesses to hire more employees, so that more growth—resulting in the creation of more taxpayers—can occur. More taxpayers, paying in at a lower rate, will create higher tax collections than having a smaller tax base. Texas is a good example of this policy in action. California, on the other hand, continues to lose businesses and taxpayers; for every 100 people moving into the state, 120 move out.
Teacher Union Endorsements
When teachers go on strike, they are striking against a government employer. Teacher strikes are, therefore, anti-government acts. Therefore, teacher unions should be insisting on limiting government power, not growing it. Unions should also promote the lower taxes that would work to spur more growth and higher tax collections. (For more on this subject, see my article on the history of the tax-cut stimulus in America: http://eaglerising.com/8311/tax-cuts-best-way-stimulate-american-economy/.)
Teacher unions should be endorsing pro-business conservatives, in order to limit the power of their employer and to grow the pool of money needed to raise teacher pay. Teachers in my school district have not received a pay increase in eight years! This reality, coupled with the fact of government-sponsored inflation, means that teachers have received a virtual pay-cut every year, as their spending power has continued to decline. But, until California teachers begin to vote in significant numbers for the economic policies that will grow the economy, there will be less and less money available for any pay raise for teachers.
Union Collusion with Government
Rather than promote policies that would grow the economy—and teachers’ wages, as a result—the union endorses big-government statists, the selfsame people that teachers might potentially call a strike against. In California, it is this government that is also supporting minority students in a lawsuit attacking union-negotiated seniority policies. The state is, in essence, calling teacher unions racist for allowing senior teachers with more experience to possess advantages in hiring, since many try to go to safer schools eventually.
The state seems to be supporting the student claims that it is racist to allow teachers with more experience to earn their way out of dangerous neighborhoods, since these neighborhoods are mainly in minority areas. As teachers gain more and more experience, the tendency is for them to apply to nicer areas with fewer security challenges. This means that the most dangerous schools are left, to a high extent, to rookie teachers.
In a political contest in California’s 45th Assembly District, local union bullies have been threatening teachers with legal punishment—to include fines and arrest—if teachers publicly speak out in support of pro-business Republican Susan Shelley. Teachers have been told not to speak publicly or to write blogs in support of Shelley. Union representatives state, dishonestly, that it is “illegal” for union members to go against the union.
Susan Shelley is a California Republican whose philosophy of limiting the power of government ought to be recognized as a boon to teachers. Shelley’s belief in keeping taxes and fees on businesses low would do more than any strike threat to enable pay raises for teachers. Shelley’s desire to protect Proposition 13, the state law keeping property taxes low for homeowners, is also a great benefit to teachers, many of whom could not afford homes without it. Susan Shelley really is, therefore, pro-teacher, even if she has been painted as being anti-union. Anti-bullying would be a more apt description of Shelley’s position.
Susan Shelley is one of the strongest proponents of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights running for office in the State of California. And she was appalled to find out that union goons were threatening her teacher supporters with negative consequences, if they dared to voice political views contrary to the union’s.
A Union with Integrity
If the union had to earn its dues, it would stop dictating to teachers what they are permitted to say. The union might also try to inform teachers of the true pros and cons of each candidate running in an election, so that teachers might make up their own minds. Empowering teachers through education might actually be a winning proposition. Even more empowering would be union leaders who expend the effort to learn how economics works, sharing this education with membership, and using such knowledge to advocate for the correct public policies that might actually enhance the lives of teachers.
The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by EagleRising.com