Sunday, February 27, 2011

FDR and Union Tyranny

FDR and Union Tyranny

As a former, retired, teacher union member whose father was a member of a company union, I don’t in the least feel hypocritical in opposing the actions of Wisconsin teachers. Bottom line is, they’re wrong, in the extreme.

When I began as a public school English teacher in the early 70′s in suburban Long Island, I had no intention of joining either the local or state unions. Even then, the state union was decidedly liberal and, in fact, there was a movement afoot to expunge the word, “union,” in favor of “association” in order to preserve a sense of teacher professionalism.

“Union” won out in that debate, not that it mattered since the umbrella organization, the National Education Association, the NEA, which partners with the American Federation of Teachers, the AFT, is a de facto union, with 3.2 million members.

In any event, during my first year I refused on principle to join the local but succumbed in my second after repeated interruptions of my class by an importuning union rep. As it turned out, I subsequently learned that the district administration, in conjunction with the union, frowned on those who didn’t join and if I hadn’t signed on I may not have had a job my third year.

With that as preface and introduction to the current education crisis in Madison, Wisconsin and elsewhere, it’s been more than disquieting to discover that I was at least in partial agreement with the greatest liberal icon in the history of liberal icons, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Not that FDR was opposed to unions or collective bargaining–far from it–but he knew the inherent dangers of public employees negotiating with governments via union representatives.

As he said, ”All government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into public service. It has its distinct and insurmountable limitations when applied to public-personnel management. The very nature and purposes of government make it impossible for administrative officials to represent fully or to bind the employer in mutual discussions with government employee organizations:”

Apparently, today’s public employee unions never got that message as to the “insurmountable limitations” and the impossibility of such situations. Nor can they seem to grasp FDR’s reminder that, in collective bargaining with governments, “The employer is the whole people,” meaning that, seated on the other side of the negotiating table, are not representatives of some greedy corporation but the American public.

Extrapolating from Roosevelt’s words, when public employee unions demonstrate and agitate and demand, they are demonstrating and agitating against “the whole people” and their demands are not being made against a mayor, governor, or president but rather against every taxpayer.

President Ronald Reagan . . .
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