Longtime readers here know that I don't belong to The Union, even though Washington is a closed shop state. I am a "fees payer," meaning that the dues are still withdrawn from my paycheck each month, but once a year, I am provided with a refund representing the amount paid that was used for "non-union activities." I know that there are some very healthy unions out and about, but the one here appears incredibly dysfunctional.
Several e-mails were tossed around the district this week as a few Union members argued about whether or not contract negotiations this year should be mindful of the fact that there are ever decreasing funds available on the part of the district. Losing 3500 kids in 10 years just doesn't generate the revenue it once did. Those programs which escaped cuts this year---like music---will likely be undergoing the budget knife in the next few years. How deep the cuts go depend, in part, on the benefits staff get in the meantime. Some Union members understand that any new benefits which are negotiated will come at the cost of programs. Others, it appears, seem to harbor mistrust over things that happened over a decade ago and are sure that the district must be lying about funding issues.
It is this second group I feel most sorry for. They don't seem to understand that their continued railing against The Man only reinforces the notion that they don't have any control of their work place. They look to Union leadership to save them---something the current regime appears to truly relish. The tone of each e-mail is meant to support the us vs. them mentality; and, frankly, it comes across as rather fascist. If you're not with them, you're the enemy...and being the enemy, everything you say is automatically considered to be a lie. (What I wouldn't give to draw a little Hitler mustache on their Little Dictator...well, if she didn't already have a mustache.)
I do wonder what will happen in the next few years if benefits increase? Will every music teacher whose job is cut because monies that once funded his or her program are now used to provide another teacher more planning time realize that it was The Union who brought that to the doorstep? Or, will those teachers on the chopping block advocate now for some moderation in the negotiations---hold the line, but be mindful of the future? How many teachers will learn that they don't have to be helpless. They have a choice to tell the Union "No, thank you."