I grew up in the downriver suburbs of Detroit, Michigan. Most of that time in a community (first a township, then a city) called Taylor—a place in the news recently for having closed its public schools in the wake of a massive wave of teachers calling in “sick.” However, these “educators” apparently made a nothing-short-of-miraculous group recovery immediately after their illness laden phone calls and quickly made their way en masse to the state capital in Lansing to join the angry mob protesting the recent legislative move to successfully make Michigan the nation’s 24th “right to work” state. This was, to sort of borrow a cliché from Vice President Biden, a big deal.
By their participation in this particular protest, these Michigan educators acted like bullies—hardly their best moment. It seems that the whole union thing brings out the worst in some people—even those with enough education to presumably know better.
How will it be possible for some of these same teachers to, in the next few days after returning to the classroom, break up a fight involving one kid bullying another? You just know that some wise guy kid, who’d fit in the cast with Ralphie in The Christmas Story, will talk back to the teacher, saying something like: “Yeah, well I saw some of you teachers do worse stuff up in Lansing than I’m doing to Billy! Besides, he deserves to be pushed around, it’s the only way I can intimidate him.” The teacher on the receiving end might then smile—missing the irony of the situation—and feel proud that this student knew how to use the word “intimidate” correctly, then wonder if the kid knew how to spell it.
“When school children start paying union dues, that’s when I’ll start representing the interests of school children,” so said the late Albert Shanker, a labor union leader who for more than 30 years organized public school teachers. And the recent near-riot in Michigan makes it clear that his DNA is still very much a part of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT)—a union he presided over as president from 1974 until his death in 1997.
I wish the collectivist left would make up its mind. On the one hand, we have been bombarded for the past few years with the emergent doctrine that the government is the answer to just about everything. On the other hand, the people who work directly for the government (including public school teachers) organize themselves into unions—the very need for which implies that the workers need a measure of protection from their employer—the government.