I have no problem with anyone making a strong case for his point of view. As the old adage says, however, your right to make a fist ends where my nose begins. Far too often, among the most educated people in this state, this fine line is violated. Here are examples:
• North Kingstown school delay — The first day of classes for students was canceled after teachers stayed home in support of non-teacher employees who still did not have a contract. This broadside was entirely inappropriate. School children have to cease being the pawns in labor fights. Strikes and “work-to-rule” actions where teachers do only the bare minimum of work says more about the professionalism of the teachers than it does about the underlying issues. It is no small wonder that the profession is being degraded by these selfish actions.
An interview on radio with a representative of the union was illustrative as to how far from reality some in organized labor have become. The gentleman said quite proudly that the school children with whom he spoke were actually on the side of the janitors. Now, I don’t know if the janitors are on the side of the gods or not, but I certainly realize that school children should not be opportuned by adults. Keep them out of the battle. Use negotiations, use the courts but don’t use children to settle disputes.
This issue is not just one for North Kingstown students. Close to a dozen districts still don’t have contracts as of this writing. The public has to nip in the bud the perceived propriety of teachers taking a hike from their responsibilities for their own self-interest or that of their fellow union members.
• Rhode Island teachers’ union sends mailers regarding votes for candidates — The National Education Association (NEA) has sent more than 11,000 mailers to union homes with the names of candidates who “will respect the rights of public employees.” So far, so good, since it is certainly its prerogative to do so. On the list, however, is Rep. Leo Medina, who faces a double set of criminal charges. The NEA, no doubt, would argue that he hasn’t been convicted yet. Even taking that into consideration, however, anyone assessing Mr. Medina’s explanation of what he did would conclude he was a shady character. A teachers’ union should let the process play out by taking a neutral stand rather than set an example for children that any warm body is OK as long as he votes in favor of the issues near and dear to the union.
By the time the reader is reviewing this column, he will be coming off the three-week holiday culminating in Labor Day. Since its origin in 1882 in New York City, Labor Day has been a proud tribute to the achievements of American Workers and the important role that unions have played in advancing the social and economic benefit of the worker. Unions today are still important. They are about the only counterbalance to powerful moneyed interests who far too often are in control of the government and whose policies sometimes threaten jobs and healthy work environments. Because of the fundamental counterpoint organized labor provides, they shouldn’t cheapen their clout or their respect by stunts.