Friday, September 12, 2014

Teachers Strike in British Columbia Continues

What good does a strike do if the government can just legislate a settlement compel everyone back to work?
Efforts to restart negotiations in the B.C. teachers' strike that were made Thursday have yet to yield any concrete results, increasing speculation the government has other plans to get the teachers back to work...

[O]n Friday morning, there was no sign from either side that a new round of actual negotiations has been scheduled.

Meanwhile, there are more signs government plans to legislate the teachers back to work if a deal is not reached by Oct. 6 when the legislature resumes sitting...

One former Liberal education minister says a legislated settlement is looking more and more likely.

The government and union have a long history of struggle over control of educational policy, with the union striking more than 50 times in the past 40 years and at least three settlements imposed by government.
The union last struck in 2012.  Clearly there's a hostile relationship between the union and the government.  That's never a recipe for a good outcome.


allen (in Michigan) said...

What good does a strike do if the government can just legislate a settlement compel everyone back to work?

To a guy with a hammer every problem looks like a nail.

Unions have exactly one tool in their kit bag. It's a powerful tool, is the withholding of labor, but when it won't work there's still an overwhelming temptation among the more excitable union members to use it anyway.

maxutils said...

Two things ... the government Cannot 'legislate' them back to work, unless the union allows it ... that they have in the past indicates to me that the union is not vey strong ... Second, I don't know if the unions demands are reasonable or not ... but for those who think that public employees' unions are to powerful ... this is how you break them. Ideally, both sides would be negotiating in good faith ... but that doesn't sound like it's the case here.

allen (in Michigan) said...

The government can't "legislate" unions back to work? I've got three words for you - air traffic controllers.

Beyond that Michigan's outlawed strikes by teacher's unions and there's hardly been a strike since enactment of the law. When a few school boards decided to throw in with the unions by refusing to play their role in the enforcement of the law they lost that power. Now? No strikes.

Besides, collective bargaining's a privilege extend by an act of the legislature. You can take the position that having been enacted collective bargaining is now sacrosanct but that's just barking. What the legislature giveth it sure as hell can taketh away and without collective bargaining, and the monopoly collective bargaining confers, a union's just a bunch of people refusing to do their job. A job plenty of other people are able and anxious to do.

Given the diminishing power of unions I'm wondering just how long it'll be before legislatures start to repeal collective bargaining legislation.

maxutils said...

Allen, my point stands. Reagan fired the air traffic controllers, he didn't force them to work. And the right to collective bargaining is indeed a right granted by the legislature ... but it's a smart one. Much better than all these morons wanting to raise minimum wage ... regardless of where you live. A living wage in CA, would buy you a mansion in Oklahoma. I know; I've had friends that have done just that. Collective bargaining is a good thing ... if both sides play fair. And if there are plenty of people anxious to do the job? Well, hire them. That's the employer's option. With the Air traffic controllers? It seems to have worked out okay ... but I'm not sure I want the teachers who couldn't get jobs before teaching my kids ... and my sports analogies from a different thread hold true: the replacement NFL refs were horrible; so were the games played with non union players. It is given that job performance will decline. Better just to negotiate.

allen (in Michigan) said...

Sorry Max but your point doesn't stand. Reagan prevented all subsequent air traffic controllers from striking by depriving them of the illusion that they were in charge.

Any of the drearily predictable union hot-heads who are willing to promise the membership anything since the union holds the ultimate weapon would do so against the historical fact of the unthinkable, the firing of every last air traffic controller who went out on strike. The result? No strikes since.

And no, extending the privilege of collective bargaining to municipal unions wasn't a smart move. It was a stupid move as the perilous financial state of more then a few states and lots of municipalities proves.

That's because people don't play fair. When someone has an overwhelming advantage the very human, if not particularly admirable response, is to exploit the advantage to the maximum regardless of the hardship it causes.

The reason the replacement of the union air traffic controllers went OK was because the results of lousy air traffic controllers is immediate, horrendous and falls with considerable weight on not just the air traffic controller who made an error but that air traffic controller's boss and his boss. They all had skin in the game so they were all careful. Can the same be said of teachers?

Of course not. Lousy teachers can continue to work till retirement and you know it.

There's no flaming wreckage with body parts strewn across the countryside as a result of a lousy teacher's lousy performance. The full extent of the damage they do may not be known for years so, no harm, no foul. Not for the teacher and not for their superiors right up to the school board. So your analogy to the NFL is self-evidently faulty.

The NFL selects the best players from all those that are available. Every players continued employment is based on carefully measured performance and it can end the instant performance declines. That performance-based employment goes right to the top. Teachers, by contrast, aren't hired for either their demonstrated skill, or there'd be poaching among school districts of their best teachers, or for their potential as demonstrated by the lack of a range of hiring salaries based on school of graduation and class standing.

So the lousy performance of the NFL replacements was predictable; they were the players who didn't make the cut due to their lesser skills. Since teaching skill is treated as if it is irrelevant replacing all the union teachers would result in no decline job performance. The union teachers weren't selected for their skills and neither will be their replacements.

maxutils said...

I maintain that good parents with a bad teacher is better than bad parents with a good teacher ... and that DOES lessen the importance of being a good teacher ... but it also highlights the fact that you can't really measure teacher performance on an objective standard. Firing teachers an hiring replacements would be a horrible idea. Teaching is a skill that requires a certain mindset, and I'm not sure what it is ... but I know that I was able to identify the 6 people in my credentialing class who were going to be successful -- and I was right on every one. One of them actually beat me out for her first job.

Last, and I know this is way too long ... I was poached. The reason I wound up at the school I've spent the most time with was because my first principal, who loved me, had a daughter that worked there ... so it's October, school's started, and I get the call asking if I'd like to interview. I was the only one interviewed, and got the job offer on the spot. Hard to leave mid year, but it was way too good an opportunity to pass up. So ... it happens.

maxutils said...

I ... need to fisk this.

Reagan was able to fire the air traffic controllers because by law they were forbidden from striking -- precisely because of their importance. So -- neither alternative was good. Cave in to their demands, or hire completely inexperienced replacements? Personally, I 'd want those who had been doing the job to come back, but Reagan certainly sent a message, one with which I might not agree, but understand.

Unionizing municipal workers ... if people paid attention to who they voted for, and if we had entirely public funding of elections ... it would not be a bad idea. The fact that no one pays attention to whom they give their vote, and that the unions donate heavily to the ones who wind up getting elected ... I agree it's a problem. I would argue though ... given their importance and education level, teachers really should be making more than prison guards ...and in general, they don't. And maybe if we paid them more, we would attract better ones. Not that I think there are a lot of bad teachers out there -- I don't. But it's a fact that math and science minded people can make tons more money not working for schools -- which I would argue means that the union has not done enough. Union/management relationships are meant to be adversarial ... it's not a question of 'playing fair' ... you use the power you have. If both sides do that, a fair agreement is had. In my local school district, the district has a glut of money that sits in their 'contingency fund' and has not given teachers a raise in the past three years ... not even a COLA. Why? Because they know their employees are too weak to strike. It works both ways.

maxutils said...

And this was next ...

Lousy teachers CAN work until retirement ... and that's a shame. But the tendency is to assume their are lots of them, and there aren't. In 17 years of teaching, I've known 2 who I would want fired for not being good. That's a really low percentage.

I agree with you about the NFL ... I honestly didn't understand them even having a union, because, unlike teachers, they have measurable skills that are highly visible ... and unlike most unions, the players get to negotiate their own salaries, based on performance. but with the concussion/brain damage issue? And drug/criminal activity measures? They need a union for workplace quality ... and they have other issues to address, as well. Not the same type of union.

I'm not sure why watching bad football is irrelevant. I hated the scrubs playing, I hated the replacement refs who didn't know the rules, and I similarly hated the MLB strike which prevented my favorite giants team from going to the world series, and from MAtt Williams being able to break the HR record ... but I'm a sports fan.

Teaching skill is not irrelevant ... I've never said that. The one thing is ... it's entirely subjective. If I play WR, and catch 10 balls ror 160 yds and 2 TDs's clear I'm pretty good. But good teachers can have lousy results. Or they can be really good, but use strategies which certain people oppose. Were you to visit a classroom taught by Darren, and a classroom taught by me ... you would see very different things. Yet ... both of us have been very successful, our students qualified to take on the next level have been competent to do so, and despite being the cool, lax teacher ... I consistently had the highest AP passage rate at our school, for one of the toughest APs -- econ -- and 95%. So when an administrator drops in and questions my style? Without a union, he could easily remove me, regardless of success. Because it's subjective. Give me a class of students at a below grade level class whose parents won't make them do homework? They're going to fail, and that's happened to me ... I once had a class of pre algebra with 22 students ... I gave 11 Ds and 11 Fs. I taught it the same as I did all my other courses. So am I a great teacher, or a horrible one?

There is no objective way to measure teacher performance, because there are too many variables ... and the most important is style. I don't want to work in an environment where I am told how to teach. If it doesn't fit my personality, it might be well intentioned, but it won't work. And without unions ... that could get me fired despite success, dependent on the administrator who spent 15 minutes in my class one day.