Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Unions Protecting Teachers Behaving Badly

I'll all about due process before public employees get fired, but unions have created what I call undue process:
A male business owner joking about life for homosexuals in prison, forced a junior accountant to bend over a desk, lined up behind him to simulate a sex act, then quipped, “I’ll show you what’s gay.”

An insurance company middle manager who had been warned about touching secretaries brushed his lower body against a new employee, coming so close that she told company investigators she could feel his genitals through his pants.

A corporate vice-president sent text messages to and called one of his female underlings nearly 50 times in a four-week period and, over the winter holidays, parked himself near her home.

In its definition of sexual harassment, the EEOC says it is “unlawful to harass a person (an applicant or employee) because of that person’s sex. Harassment can include ‘sexual harassment’ or unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature.” As such, the above scenarios fit the EEOC description of a crime. The perpetrators should face serious legal charges, loss of employment or both.

The tragedy is that the above cases did not occur between employers and employees, but are real life examples of teachers abusing children. According to a recent New York Times story,

A health teacher at a high school in Manhattan, joking about life for homosexuals in prison, forced a male student to bend over a desk, lined up behind him to simulate a sex act, then quipped, according to an Education Department investigative report, “I’ll show you what’s gay.”

A high school science teacher in the Bronx who had already been warned about touching female students brushed his lower body against one student’s leg during a lab exercise, coming so close that she told investigators she could feel his genitals through his pants.

And a math teacher at a high school in the Bronx, investigators said, sent text messages to and called one of his female students nearly 50 times in a four-week period and, over the winter holidays, parked himself at the McDonald’s where she worked.

Surely these teachers are no longer employed as teachers, are they?

Well, yes they are.

After promising not to do it again, they were given a slap on the wrist by an “arbitrator” and returned to their classes.
I genuinely honestly truly like this part:
But, in a perverse sense, the union stance is understandable, but where are the paladins of the oppressed?

Where are the feminists?

Where is the anti-bullying brigade?

Where are the civil rights groups?
Where, indeed.


Jean said...

A young relative of mine was pulled out of school this year and is now homeschooled, because her teacher was such a bully. If she was a parent, you'd call CPS, but instead nothing has happened, despite a long record of mistreating students. (Well, she was sent to anger management class and moved down to teach a younger grade. She is currently teaching 3rd grade.)

Cases like this go a very, very long way towards undermining the general good opinion of all teachers. I've become convinced that cases like this--and the union that is behind them--are a large part of the problem. Parents cannot trust a system that protects people who abuse their children.

mmazenko said...

Absolutely, D. Due process.

It's so hard to support labor associations when these cases arise. But then people use these examples and stories of "the rubber room" in NYC to campaign for the end of tenure, collective bargaining, and due process.

It's like there's no common sense middle ground.

Darren said...

It's like you have to ask for the moon and the stars, just to get small spot on the beach. If you *ask* for that common sense middle ground, there's nothing to negotiate away.

Anonymous said...

I'm still wondering why teachers and government workers (and grocery store clerks, and nurses, and pro athletes and on and on and on) need a union. Unless your job involves the potential loss of life or limb, can't an individual make his/her own deal with his employer? I'm also looking for one good thing a union has done in the last 50 years...just one.

mmazenko said...


You have a lot of history to learn with the role organized labor played in basically building the middle class of the 20th century. It's basically called strength in numbers, bud; and the group is able to negotiate more effectively and often efficiently than individuals. For example, should GE set up individual contracts with 35000 workers, or could they perhaps collectively bargain?

And, as Darren and I have noted, we concede much of the problems with unions. It's not a perfect system, and any organization can be corrupted. But, the majority of union workers who simply want an honest wage for an honest days work. And if a group can negotiate for them, why shouldn't they?

EdD said...

Alexis de Tocqueville wrote about the American middle class in his book Democracy in America (Vol I, 1835 and Vol II, 1840.) the contention that unions "created" the middle class in the 20th century is simply a myth.
Further, those 35,000 GE workers could easily form an employees' representation committee to negotiate wages and working conditions with management.

Not the Same Anon said...

Funny, I thought GE was a private corporation.

Still didn't answer regarding the last few decades. Since the mid 60's/early 70's, what have unions done other than cause GM to not be able to compete on the global market, drive a wedge between the "upper" and "lower" classes, and stand up for workers that probably should be fired?

Anonymous said...

"For example, should GE set up individual contracts with 35000 workers, or could they perhaps collectively bargain?"

I see this argument a lot from people arguing in support of unions. I work for a company with about 5,000 employees, and individual contracts is exactly what the company does. Granted, they tend to have a similar structure and salary ramps, but individual negotiation is exactly what *does* happen (and I've seen it happen when my department was making job offers).

What exactly is the problem here? Clearly the pro-union folks think that this setup is horrible, but I feel like I'm missing something. What is it?

-Mark Roulo

Anonymous said...

I'm the same anon looking for the one positive things unions have done. My company has 40,000 employees....no union. We aren't abused. Everyone is free to work or, if the pay is too low, to look for another job. I don't know why my job is any different than a government worker or a school teacher.

mmazenko said...

OK, Anon, you clearly have a simple philosophical objection, meaning you won't accept the other side. But here's the point:

Unions form where they are needed. If workers accept their wages, safety, work conditions as fair, they won't organize. However, the history of labor has revealed that's not always the case. And, as a society of workers, we have rejected the idea that workers simply "look elsewhere." For, if there is general collusion elsewhere of the same conditions, then nothing ever improves for workers. If you don't like that, too bad. Some workers believe in collectively arguing for better treatment.

Secondly, the teaching profession was underpaid for decades of American history. It was to the point of not even being considered a profession. And organized labor has improved that. One hundred years ago, a person couldn't support a family and live as on professional on teachers wages - and certainly wouldn't be able to afford today's education and credentialing - without organized collective bargaining.

Third, even the bank where my family works has "due process" after a probationary period of roughly ninety days. That is, a bank teller cannot be fired without cause. Neither can my friends co-workers in retail or working for Microsoft. Due process - which is all tenure and labor contracts are - is a basic accepted right of labor. If you are OK just losing your job - or firing people - on a whim, good for you, But many of us aren't.

And, keep in this in mind. Even if your workers are not union, they benefit from organized labor. Do they have a forty hour work week? Union. How about overtime? Union. Minimum wage? Union. Health benefits? Union. Holiday's off? Union. Social security, Medicare, job safety? All lobbied for and won by organized labor.

You've lived under a comfortable blanket of protection, that you don't even understand or appreciate. And you probably never will.

Darren said...

No one's challenging the good labor unions did a hundred years ago, we challenge the evil they've become today.

(We also challenge your rose-colored view of their history, which includes extreme violence and intimidation, but that is *in addition to* the good they do, it doesn't replace that good.)