Just a Thought – Going Into Labor

Organized Labor is a good thing.

Abuse of power is a bad thing.

So, what should the response be when the good thing does the bad thing?

It’s Labor Day, for heaven’s sake, and we should all be having a picnic and giving thanks for the wonderful life that was created by the people who worked so hard to get unions for workers. The eight hour day, the 40 hour week – they weren’t gifts from the congress or the church. They did, in fact, cost people’s lives. Wresting power away from banks and business owners and getting people to change their assumptions about work was revolutionary.

Sadly, it’s a revolution were are losing. Unions are less present and more needed in almost every part of economic life.

It is right and good that unions should weigh in on elections. Everyone should weigh in on elections; it’s about choosing leaders for how we live.

But our unions are not our church or our congress, and to imply that they represent everyone in the community is simply false.

However many groups we have, be they the Friends of the Wetlands or the Boosters of the School or the Veterans of the War, they are groups that do not include everyone. They are there to help the Wetlands and the School and the Veterans.

The sticky situation we have with our school unions is that they keep insisting that they want what’s best for everyone, and in fact, they don’t. They can’t – it is not what they were created for or what they are designed to do. They are there to make sure that our teachers and school employees get what they feel they need.

They shouldn’t feel that they need to prevent the rest of the community – parents foremost – from participating in the schools.

The animosity of the employees union for the parents union is so ironic, it borders on hilarity. The idea that one union should be able to tell another union that is has no right to exist is absurd. (I did sit through the whole Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Radio and Television Artists dance that took years to resolve – if you want to see the union vs. union tango turn into an apache dance –  roll credits on that one-) People have rights. Those rights need to be ensured.  This is why we have unions, dammit.

The notion that parents should just mind their own business and not be active with their children’s schools is a complete contradiction of the pleas we hear every September – Get involved! Volunteer! Help us raise money!

The schism comes when “help us raise money” stops at the gate of deciding how that money will be spent.

The idea that parental labor creating school capital must be shut out of the process of spending that capital – why – that’s the very thing that unions stand against. Those who create the means must have a voice in the end. Unions exist to make sure that those who create capital are not cut out of how that capital is used.

So, we need to keep it open and honest. Everyone gets a seat at the table. Unions are good; all unions are good.

As we celebrate Labor Day, let’s hope for an easy labor. Whether you think that ‘many hands make light work’ or ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’, remember we are all in the soup together. Collective bargaining and agreements are a foundation of how our culture works. It should work for teachers, employees, and parents.

If you think that being a parent does not qualify as a job – why do we call it ‘going into labor’ ?

www.culvercitysymphony.org

3 Comments

  1. Are the school district unions saying that the parents union does not have a right to exist? I certainly have not heard them say that. I have heard them ask school-board members how they feel about UPCC, but that is not even close to questioning whether UPCC has the right to exist.

    The whole issue about the adjuncts was not whether funds could be raised or spent on adjuncts, it was whether those adjuncts were being paid legally, within state rules. It was a legitimate question that probably should have been raised many, many years ago. I certainly wondered about it when I was an El Marino parent. After the question was raised, the necessary research was done and a solution was found.

    I am not sure that anyone is implying that the district employee unions represent everyone. They represent teachers and staff, and their endorsement represents who teachers and staff support in the election, and who they feel the unions should place their political and financial muscle behind. I have no idea how much that muscle is worth in CCUSD, in fact I would be interested to know what the correlation is between victory in the elections and district employee endorsements.

    In the same vein, I hope that it is clear that UPCC does not represent all parents. UPCC has never asked me, either directly or through a representative from the high school, how I feel about any issues. I applaud their leadership on issues such as school safety; I am delighted that all the schools are working together on these issues and engaging both the district and the city.

  2. Hi Christine, UPCC sends out emails to our healthy membership on a semi-regular basis, and we ask our members in a variety of formats how they feel about particular issues, and what issues are important to them. Parent engagement is extremely important to us.

    From the UPCC website: “Our parent-leaders are highly active and motivated volunteers at their children’s schools, including many PTA and Booster Club leaders. We are 100% CCUSD parent-run, non-partisan and democratic. By banding parents together from all schools, we amplify our voices and maintain a consistent presence. We honor and support the differences and successes of each school while at the same time work together on common goals.”

  3. Good Question, Chris. Looking at the last 3 school board elections might be instructive to see how much our residents trust our employees in helping them to pick school board members.

    2011:
    Nancy Goldberg was endorsed by both unions
    Laura Chardiet was endorsed by 1 union
    Both won the election

    2009:
    I (Karlo Silbiger) was endorsed by both unions
    Kathy Paspalis was endorsed by both unions
    Robert Zirgulis was endorsed by 1 union
    Gary Abrams was endorsed by 1 union
    Kathy and I won this election

    2007:
    Scott Zeidman was endorsed by both unions
    Steve Gourley was endorsed by 1 union
    Roger Maxwell was endorsed by 1 union
    Scott and Steve won this election

    So in total:
    6 out of 9 candidates (67%) who were endorsed by at least 1 union won their election.
    All 4 candidates who were endorsed by both the teachers and classified staff won election (100%).

    Karlo Silbiger

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