Which Side Are You On?

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Photo copyright NBC news.


Pete Seeger sings this classic union song in 1981. Which Side Are You on?


The central Appalachians have been a hot bed of union activity for more than 100 years. The history of West Virginia is full of stories about the battle to unionize the coal mines, and armed battles that took place to enable workers to organize and gain a measure of power against the forces of capital. At the Battle of Blair Mountain in 1921, the US government actually bombed positions held by miners as part of the armed standoff. Eventually, the victory of the United Mine Workers was recognized, and the union became a symbol of worker solidarity and evidence of the continual struggle between management and labor.


Still, after the heyday of the union movement, over time the antipathy of the capitalist class toward unions gained more sway, especially with the general prosperity that evolved in the coal fields. Entire mining companies proudly declared themselves as non-union operations. The A.T. Massey company, led by the notorious Don Blankenship, was famous for breaking unions at their mines. Indeed, even in 2018, Don Blankenship is running for Senate in West Virginia fresh off of his stay in a Federal prison, claiming that he is a miner's safety champion, as he runs ads extolling his generosity and the commitment to safety that Massey mines held. It was the government's fault that 29 men died in a Massey mine, not management! Nowhere is it so evident that unions are far weaker than they were, reduced as it is to a faint whisper of their influence a century ago.


Which is why it is so surprising that the events of the past two weeks in West Virginia are resonating with the echoes of history in the hills around Charleston and throughout the state. Teachers in West Virginia walked off of their jobs beginning February 22, and as of March 3, have not agreed to return to work. This strike is not against a capitalist company, though. This strike is aimed at the Legislature of West Virginia, and Governor Jim Justice, who ironically is a coal magnate with mines throughout Appalachia. Over the past decade, the Legislature has reduced or eliminated a series of taxes in the state. Some of these taxes were regressive, like the sales tax on food. Some tax reductions were aimed at improving the business environment. But the net result was to reduce tax revenues by several hundred millions of dollars per year, and the promise of new businesses coming to take advantage of an improved business climate has not closed the revenue gap. Then, several years ago, the eastern steam coal market collapsed, as exports shrunk, and more coal-fired power plants closed down rather than comply with regulations aimed at minimizing the health and environmental consequences of coal combustion. A surfeit of natural gas from fracking also convinced utility companies that coal was not part of their future. Severance tax collections fell by hundreds of millions of dollars.


So for several years, West Virginia has dealt with tax revenues that declined over time, and this has necessitated on-going cuts in state programs and government spending. The deplorable state of this state's highways bears witness to the sustained neglect of state services. The teachers of this state were squeezed from two directions. First, their base pay as set by the state, has not risen for multiple years. Second, the state-run health care insurance has repeatedly raised rates and deductibles, like most health insurance has over this decade. The general increase in rates was exacerbated this year by an ill-advised proposal that was to charge employees for health insurance based upon total family wage income, rather than by the employee wage. So a teacher who would have a moderate premium based upon their state salary, might be subject to pay twice as much if they had a spouse who had income but used the state health insurance. State teachers could foresee their pay going down to cover these premiums in a period of limited pay increases.


Teachers in this state are in essence fighting a proxy war for all state and local employees and retirees. All state employees are covered by the Public Employees Insurance Agency (PEIA). So whatever changes that the teachers can cause, will apply to all of those in the state who are using PEIA.


This year, frustration boiled over. The proposed family income change, and other legislation aimed at diminishing teacher rights, collided with a minor pay raise proposal. For the first year since Republicans expelled the 80 year reign of the Democrats in the Legislature in 2014, there appeared to be growth in tax revenue projections. Governor Justice and the Legislators proposed a magnificent 5% pay raise, with the pay rates to be increased by 2% the first year, and 1% each of the next 3 years. No change was proposed in the PEIA rate structure.


Teachers rose up in rebellion. The job action finally began on February 22, and since that time, the steps of the Capitol Building have been covered by thousands of teachers with the #55Strong motto on shirts and signs (West Virginia has 55 counties). The chambers of the legislature have been packed, and the members of the legislature have been heckled with the calls of "DO YOUR JOBS", and "WE WILL, WE WILL, VOTE YOU OUT!" echoing inside of the Capitol rotunda. It has been a remarkable scene reminiscent of the days of yesteryear, when the miners who were on strike became known as rednecks due to their use of red bandannas around their necks. Some of the current teachers are proudly wearing red bandannas now in honor of their labor past.


How will this end? At this writing, it is uncertain. The State Senate is maintaining its prerogative to slow track a bill aimed at granting a one year 5% raise, thanks to an opportunistic rise in revenue projections that just happened to show up. Teachers have said that it's not the pay that's the biggest problem, it is the funding for PEIA. As often happens once a conflict erupts, neither side is willing to budge, and the way out of the abyss is hard to see at this time.

Photo copyright Jed Ward

Posted first on my blog, http://evenabrokenclock.blog


Jeffrey Kelly Added Mar 3, 2018 - 8:49pm
Yup.  Pretty typical.  A Republican Government screws up the tax code with promises that it solves everything.
So, programs get cut, education suffers....yet the Republican Party skillfully manipulates people by appealing to their patriotism and religion.  
This is why I favor giving people what they want.  
Tubularsock Added Mar 3, 2018 - 9:47pm
Ok. Tubularsock would admit that the lowest common denominator is “patriotism and religion”, hands down!
And because of pre-programming people fall for it.
It may even be a DNA problem!
The dumber you are the larger “patriotism and religion” plays a part in your life.
And because of that the manipulation is easy.
The real sad part is not that it is done but that it works OVER AND OVER AGAIN.
So by letting people be deceived will assist in their own destruction.
And thereby rebirth?
Pretty risky.
Pardero Added Mar 4, 2018 - 12:13am
     The teachers unions need to be crushed. There is absolutely no equivalence with the noble miners of the 1920s. They attempt a false equivalence to curry support. 
     The teachers unions want more money for poorer results.
     My mother taught school her entire adult life and believed the unions were hurting education. My mother had a masters degree but insisted that a degree in education was the easiest to obtain. 
     I became so frustrated with the PC rubbish that I pulled my Julie out and put her into a parochial school for second grade. After that one year, she was reading as 5th grade level. We moved and had a better public school system for 3rd grade and she was at the top of her class. 
     That single year of parochial school changed her life. He was an achiever ever since.
     Hurry and delete this like last time. Progs cannot tolerate dissent. It doesn't fit the narrative. You prefer an echo chamber.
Leroy Added Mar 4, 2018 - 10:02am
Well, I read this morning that the WV moronic legislators inadvertently voted to give the teachers the full 5% raise.  They can't even figure out what they are voting on.  Now the Republicans are trying to repeal what they just voted on.  Dumb and dumber.
Leroy Added Mar 4, 2018 - 10:56am
Pardero, I had two sisters that when into teaching.  They both hated the union but felt they had no choice but to join.  I used to watch Pat Robertson on occasion because he was so good with foreign affairs.  I caught an episode on the teachers' union.  He started talking about all the evil crap they do.  I thought he was full of it until he showed the actual text put out by the union.  They're nuts.
The daughter of one of the above was pretty smart.  She decided she wanted to be a pharmacist.  She had enough scholarships to complete her education.  After the first semester, she decided it was going to be too much work and became a teacher.  Another niece went into architecture.  She decided it was too much work and decided to go into Recreation, Parks, and Administration (RPA), truly the easiest degree to obtain.  Her mother vetoed that plan, so she studied to become a teacher.  One semester of practice teaching "those brats" changed her mind.  She was too argumentative to hold a job in the private sector for long, so she eventually ended up as a teacher.  You may be right in that it is easy to become a teacher, but it is a tough job these days.  One of my sisters eventually become an assistant principal.  She was trained to take down students twice her size and did so.
Pardero Added Mar 4, 2018 - 11:15am
Thank you for those personal insights. I have little education but manage well enough because I had exceptional teachers.
Towards the end of her career, my mother sought jobs in small conservative communities. 
Shortly, I will be hauling sand near one of those communities.
Jeffrey Kelly Added Mar 4, 2018 - 12:29pm
How dare teachers want raises.  They should all be tossed into jail and their unions destroyed.
Leroy Added Mar 4, 2018 - 1:56pm
I don't know if they deserve a raise or not.  Their pension probably needs to be scaled back.  Teachers (or more precisely, the union) always complain about wages.  They seem to have it pretty good.  Starting wages may be low, but my sister's made good money and only work 9 or 10 months a year. 
Even A Broken Clock Added Mar 4, 2018 - 4:50pm
Jeffrey and Tube - in honesty, the cutting of the taxes was not strictly a Republican effort, although it accelerated after they assumed office in 2015. No, it was under Democratic control that the sales tax was cut on food over time, and that was a tax that weighed more heavily on the poorer residents.
It really was the decline in coal severance revenue which hurt the last few years. That decline was loudly blamed on the Obama administration, but it was really due to market forces that caused fuel substitution due to lower natural gas prices and higher availability.
Even A Broken Clock Added Mar 4, 2018 - 4:54pm
Pardero, I don't know what I did to raise your ire. I had not deleted any of your comments to any of my posts in the past, and I greatly enjoy your writing. As to desiring an echo chamber, that is the last thing I do as I attempt to engage those who disagree. I will admit there are some who will rub me the wrong way and will draw a snide remark, but they are few.
As far as the efficacy of teacher's unions, I am neutral on their power and effectiveness. Since I am living right in the middle of this mess that's receiving national attention, I figured it would be worthwhile to write about it and provide some historical perspective.
Even A Broken Clock Added Mar 4, 2018 - 4:59pm
Leroy, you are exactly correct about the parliamentary incompetence shown by the Republican majority this weekend. They wanted to pass a 4% raise rather than the 5% raise, but by mistake they passed the 5% raise from the House. They then had to retract that passage and actually pass the 4% raise that was immediately declared a non-starter both by the House of Representatives here, and by the teachers.
I can think of no better argument for reducing the size of government than by going to a unicameral legislature like in Nebraska where I grew up. Not that there are not shenanigans there, but at least they don't have this cross-chamber gamesmanship. And does West Virginia really need an elected member of our legislature for every 13,500 people? I think not.
Even A Broken Clock Added Mar 4, 2018 - 5:07pm
Leroy, the teachers in this state have been at or near the bottom in state teacher income since I moved into the state in 1986. This pay level causes problems when so many of the regions of the state are adjoining to other states with higher teacher salaries. There is a severe shortage of certified teachers, especially for math and science certifications.
Teacher salaries are higher than average wages for the state, but considering that most teachers have master degrees and many are proceeding on towards doctorates, the pay is not exorbitant for the level of education. But there is constant sniping by many at the perceived excessive pay received by the teachers who are seen as gorging themselves on the taxpayers largesse.
It's not just the teachers that cause the cost of education to be so high. It's the excessive number of administrators and the excess number of non-instructional specialists employed by school districts. And indeed, there are too many school districts, since each of the 55 counties have their own school district, which serves as a source of even more administrators. Cut back the districts, merge school systems across some of these low-populated counties, and you could afford to pay teachers more.
Even A Broken Clock Added Mar 4, 2018 - 5:15pm
Just found out that the link for the Pete Seeger song didn't work. I've fixed it and hopefully it is working now.
Jeff Michka Added Mar 4, 2018 - 6:25pm
The teachers unions need to be crushed. There is absolutely no equivalence with the noble miners of the 1920s- Oh yeah, get rid of them thar teachers, What Pard and a few other WB rightists want:  They should all be tossed into jail and their unions destroyed as Jeffrey Kelly notes.-Hey, Leamo Pard, why did those miners unionize?  Why do any workers unionize? And how dare a PUBLIC school teacher ask for more money.  They should work for free or few pennies on the dollar, right?  If they worked in the flawless environment of a privatized charter school, they make so much more, eh?
Katharine Otto Added Mar 4, 2018 - 11:19pm
In my ideal world, the administration would be fired and the teachers would get their money.  In Georgia, not only does most of property tax go to education, but over 50% of the state budget and a lot of federal money goes to education, too.  Still, we have a 47% functional illiteracy rate.  Would higher teacher pay make a difference?  Maybe it would if their hands weren't tied by rules and having to kiss up to absentee bosses, like unions and legislators.
In my county, it seems the school system is busy building buildings on vast tracts of land, but the buildings are only used 8 hours a day, five days a week and shut down all summer.  It seems a terrible waste of valuable public assets.
It seems like the educational system, up to and including the universities, is just big business, these days.  Functionaries, like teachers, are the necessary fronts for the GoverCorp interests. 
What does this have to do with the strike?  Only that the teachers are the last that should have to suffer from political maneuvering, from local to federal levels.  They have enough to do. 
Doug Plumb Added Mar 5, 2018 - 5:51am
Teachers will strike for pay, but never against the crap they are asked to teach. Pay them enough and they will tell the kids that the moon is made of cheese, just don't touch that pension.
opher goodwin Added Mar 5, 2018 - 6:08am
I taught for thirty six years and became Union Rep for my school in my very first year. I continued that role until I went into senior management and then felt that it was no longer right to hold on to the role. But I remained a staunch union man throughout my career and as a Headteacher I stood on the picket line.
In my view education is the most important thing you can have. Our children deserve the best.
The short-sighted view of Republicans and Tories that public services should be slashed so that tax cuts can be given to the rich in the hopes that that will increase investment and cause growth is majorly flawed. Much of the money from those tax cuts is taken abroad to invest at higher rates or stuffed away in tax evading off-shore sites.
To get high quality teachers you have to pay high quality wages.
Education is an expensive business and requires proper funding.
When teachers go on strike they are actually fighting for the future of the children they teach and the future of the country.
If a country does not have a brilliantly educated population it is doomed. Where is America heading? I think it is presently valuing the super-rich more that its children.
opher goodwin Added Mar 5, 2018 - 6:12am
IMO - the American 'red scare' and crushing of the union movement has put all the power in the hands of the bosses which has eroded standards of pay and working conditions for ordinary people while producing an elite of super-rich people bloated on the profits they have prised from exploited workers.
There needs to be a rebirth of trade unions and an outbreak of fairness and justice. This level of inequality is a sickness.
Dino Manalis Added Mar 5, 2018 - 8:15am
There needs to be a balance, extremes lead to more problems, I'm on the side of hope and pragmatism whomever can provide it!
opher goodwin Added Mar 5, 2018 - 8:36am
Dino - that's me! I'm the voice of pragmatism and hope!
Even A Broken Clock Added Mar 5, 2018 - 10:17am
Jeff - The private sector has been ruthless in crushing union organizing activities. Still, in my working career in chemical plants, I worked in two unionized or partially unionized plants. It seems like there is a large portion of the country that holds a visceral hatred of all things union, and there is no realization that unions of today bear little resemblance to the mob-infiltrated operations like that shown in On The Waterfront.
I guess the real issue is that power corrupts, no matter who wields it. When management holds all power, labor suffers, and when in the few times where unions hold power, they get corrupted. Human nature?
Even A Broken Clock Added Mar 5, 2018 - 10:22am
Katharine - our state also has a very large percentage of the state budget going towards education. We though are not building new school buildings in order to accommodate additional students. No, we are only building new schools in order to consolidate two or more schools that were probably built nearly a century ago in order to deal with the declining student population.
How do you deal with motivating a student population that has never had education demonstrated as a desired value in their home life? I have difficulty in identifying with those students who detest school. I still remember having nearly sleepless nights the evening before school started in elementary school, because I was so excited to be going back and learning again.
Even A Broken Clock Added Mar 5, 2018 - 10:29am
Doug, I don't agree with your premise on teacher motivation. Could you provide an example of what you mean by "the crap they are asked to teach"?
I'm sure that teachers who have a significant number of years of service do have pensions as a motivator. Heck, the pension I earned in my private industry career was a strong motivator to me.
Even A Broken Clock Added Mar 5, 2018 - 10:37am
Opher - The image of corrupt union organizations using intimidation to force members to toe the line, and imposing extortion on employers to ensure labor peace had as much to do with the public's distrust of unions as did the red scare. That image still resonates with many who cannot see that their own economic well-being might improve if they joined a collective organization for mutual support. Americans favor the go-it-alone approach, where your own strength and virtue lead to you becoming successful. Think John Wayne.
opher goodwin Added Mar 5, 2018 - 11:29am
EABC - yes I know. Except John Wayne was fiction and even John Wayne was not John Wayne.
There is always the dilemma of how to deal with blacklegs.
The result of not having unions is that workplace rights in America are far worse than other Western countries. People are basically walked over. Without unions people are shat on.
Leroy Added Mar 5, 2018 - 1:39pm
"Heck, the pension I earned in my private industry career was a strong motivator to me."
For many people, having a good pension and savings plan is a motivator for the medium term.  It is of no importance early on.  Once you have been there a while, it is a strong motivator to stick around.  Once you have been there too long, it becomes an anti-motivator.  Something pisses you off, you just say, "Take this job and shove it!"  Some employees retire and come back to work the same job as a contractor.  The same job except for you don't have all the paperwork and meetings.  Those employees have the ultimate control.  They usually have a necessary skill.  They can say, "Screw it" anytime.
Dave Volek Added Mar 5, 2018 - 3:11pm
I just noticed a couple of paradoxes in the threads.
If school administrators are the problem and deserve to be axed, who will take care of all the paperwork? The teachers? I am saying this because, in my son's schools, the administrative people take a big load off the teachers.
If amalgamating school boards is the answer to reduce the number of administrators, then doesn't this cut into the principle of parents having more choice in education. 
Even A Broken Clock Added Mar 5, 2018 - 5:11pm
Leroy, what you said there is so right. For the last couple of years of my working career, I realized that I had it in my power to retire and be able to handle it financially. That is a supremely liberating feeling. I committed to one final SAP migration project that was completed in my final year of work, and once we went live, I had a few weeks left to tie up loose ends and leave. I thought I'd be approached to do contract work, but that didn't happen.
Even A Broken Clock Added Mar 5, 2018 - 5:18pm
Dave, I do not have the figures but the ratios of support and administrators to the number of classroom teachers keeps increasing over time. If you talk to teachers, they feel there are too many administrators. And this is from the most populous county with 200,000 people.
West Virginia has 20 counties with populations lower than 20,000. At present each county has its own school board, its own superintendent of schools, administrative staff, support staff, etc. At what point is there diminishing returns to having its own separate administration? And what you notice is that each administration develops its own cadre of hangers-on, who derive their income and support from the administration. This often impedes local input rather than  facilitate it.
Dave Volek Added Mar 5, 2018 - 9:02pm
My county has about 25,000 people. We have four school boards: (1) Public with about 60% of the students, (2) Catholic with about 35%, (3) Christian with about 2%, and (4) French with about 2%. The public school board is all entirely within the county. The other three are part of bigger geographical areas that go beyond the county. For example, the headquarters for the Catholic School Board is located a two-hour drive from my county.
If we go back 40 years, there was only one school board. And it really wasn't a school board as it was run by the county councilors who were elected to do lots of other things. Obviously, changes have been made, there usually are good reasons for these changes we sometimes do not understand.
If, for sake of administrative efficiencies, we were to amalgamate these four school systems into one system, then we start taking away parents' choices. This big school board would have a monopoly and would not fear losing students to the other school boards.
If, for sake of administrative efficiencies, we were to amalgamate the school boards of four nearby counties in one population base of, say, 100,000 people, then we are going to have decision-makers who live and work far away from some parts of this new school board.
And going back to my own high school days of the one school board, it really wasn't doing a good job of preparing students to be accepted into college. And it didn't seem to care---except when the Catholic School started up around 1995. Today, the public school board puts a lot of kids into college--and it really tries to prepare those kids who aren't going to college with some good life skills.
The centralization/decentraliation debate really can't be solved by any ideologically reasoning. Each jurisdiction has its own balance to strike, and a lot depends on its current resources and how well it has been using them.
In other words, just because a county has 20,000 people does not mean it should amalgamate its school board with another county(s).
And there are definitely a lot more non-teachers in schools than when I was in school. From what I can see, they are doing useful things for the school. For example, it is usually an administrator who puts the paper work in order for school field trips. If this task falls back on the teachers, this is less energy for the classroom. Plus these low level administrators are usually paid half the salary of a teacher.
I don't think there is an ideological solution for this issue.
Leroy Added Mar 6, 2018 - 12:51am
"I thought I'd be approached to do contract work, but that didn't happen."
In my former company, the pendulum swings back and forth.  Re-hiring retirees has always operated on the edge of the law.  When it first started doing it, it would pay the retirees the going rate for contract engineers.  An engineering company has a lot of overhead.  The whole idea was to make it look legit and it was paying out the nose for it.  It was stupid to pay a retiree three or four times what they were making.  Many would work for free to have something to do.  Management finally figured it out and started paying a couple of dollars over the rate they were making before retiring.  They found a way to make it look legit.  Some refused to work at the lower rate.
Then, the government started cracking down.  A retiree couldn't be hired until six months had passed since retirement.  Finally, it was decided a retiree couldn't work as a full-time engineer.  He had to have a defined scope.  Once he reached the objective, the job was over.  It was a contract, in other words.  That made it look legit.  Now, I hear they are bringing some back who have unique skills to work full-time.
I imagine that your company had similar struggles to comply with the law.  Maybe it was just bad timing.
Leroy Added Mar 6, 2018 - 1:01am
Both of my sisters retired and went on a special program where they could continue to teach while receiving full salary and benefits and delaying the withdrawal from their pensions.  It was so lucrative, that one sister bought out the last two years of retirement (set at 28 years) to go on this program.  Somewhere along the line, someone sued to make the program available to all state employees.  It about bankrupted the state and the program was discontinued.  One still works being hired as a specialist.
They have had it pretty darn good as teachers and administrators.  Only work 9 to 10 months a year.  Retirement after 28 years.  Special programs to help them work more while delaying their pensions.  Once a teacher, additional education was paid for towards their masters and doctorate.  You can't get that in private industry.  The boss of one of my sisters began as a school bus driver at the age of 16.  She did some work during the summers during the college break.  All those years counted towards retirement.  Unreal how government workers benefit.  It's difficult to convince me that teachers are underpaid.
Jeffrey Kelly Added Mar 6, 2018 - 6:47am
Teacher’s salaries in Oklahoma are the lowest in the nation.  In a rather embarrassing development, the Teacher of the Year from 2016 left Oklahoma to teach somewhere else.  A lot of people in this state were indignant about it, I personally felt he should go.  Why stay somewhere he is not under appreciated?
Leroy, the issue is unlike private industry, teachers can go years without pay raises.  It is the same for state workers.
wsucram15 Added Mar 6, 2018 - 10:23am
Unions began a political decline in power with the taft hartley act (1947) after the largest wave of strikes in US history.  It went up and down until the corporations fought back during civil rights movement against government control (1963) AND really started with consolidation of AFL-CIO in 1955 headed by George Meany who at first was not supportive on integration and caused some issues for unions.
But with federal employees the killer of unions was the air traffic controllers strike that Regan broke in 81.  That was the killer...even though that was federal unions, it had an affect on all unions.
After that, very little legislation has been moved forward with the exception of defining previous existing law.
Current strike seems settled though.  This is a strong message for unions and teachers specifically.  There is not much power in unions anymore..but I cant argue thats a good thing for workers having worked in HR with union protected employees and w/o.  In fact, that is what I am hoping to go back into, labor law.  Interesting field.
wsucram15 Added Mar 6, 2018 - 10:38am
I will say the curriculum that teachers are forced to teach..is not always so great. Guidelines and objectives are good..but how they get there with good results should be allowed.
Even A Broken Clock Added Mar 6, 2018 - 10:59am
Dave, one thing that is worse than having too many administrative districts is forcing consolidation via some arbitrary formula. That never works out well. I do know that there is little justification for having so many counties in this state, and the counties should also be ripe for consolidation, which would lead to school system consolidation. But too many oxen would be gored with that approach, so I do not ever expect it to happen.
Your example with the public and the religious boards - do any taxpayer funds go to the religious school boards / schools? I'd be interested in hearing how they administer that if their funding had a public input.
Even A Broken Clock Added Mar 6, 2018 - 11:04am
Leroy, part of the issue with not being offered consulting work had to do with my location. I had supported a global enterprise for 15 years while working at the same plant site I had been at. If I'd been in Wilmington Delaware instead of West Virginia, I might have had more opportunity. But then, the big SAP consolidation project I had been working on got canceled about 6 months after I left, and then they announced a merger with Dow followed by a breakup into 3 companies. They are still in the middle of that process, and I'm damn glad I had no part in either working to integrate systems or try to maintain business given the chaotic situation. No, I'm glad to be able to spend some of my time and mental energy on writing.
Even A Broken Clock Added Mar 6, 2018 - 11:09am
Jeanne, you define the legal framework for the decline of the unions very well. Ronald Reagan and the ATC strike breaking enervated the anti-union effort. I worked at two union plants during my career. One was completely unionized, and it seemed like both sides engaged in a kabuki dance every few years when contract expiration approached. No strike there in 10 years.
The other plant was only partially unionized. The Control Laboratory technicians had a union, and there was never any real issues with it. We did have a couple of rounds of attempts to unionize the site, and those were interesting, but I think nothing has happened in that arena for at least 15 years. Private sector unions are dying away. Whether they should in this day and age of a gig economy where there are no employers, only contractors, is a matter of discussion.
Bill H. Added Mar 6, 2018 - 11:31am
If we continue to decline support for education, we will fail in other areas such as job growth, innovation, and end up increasing immigration to secure the talent we need.
Seems that our President even stated "I love the poorly educated" during his Nevada Caucus victory speech, and his party seems to feel the same way. Why is this? Could it be that they want a base that is easily convinced and manipulated? Do they want to create more illiterate people that will work for cheaper wages? This certainly appears to be the case, being that they are apparently against funding higher education and eager to import foreign workers that will work for peanuts and not demand family time, vacation time, or raises.
Dave Volek Added Mar 6, 2018 - 12:05pm
For each student enrolled in a school system in Alberta, there is a corresponding grant that goes to that school system. I think it is about $6,000 a student per year.
So if the Catholic school board manages to convince a family to move their kids to the Catholic school system, that money moves with the student.
In our byzantine tax system, a part of our property taxes goes to either the public system or the Catholic system. The property owner must declare one or the other. But if the owner has kids in school, the taxes go to the school system of those kids. I think this revenue is far less than the "per student" grant. 
Because the French and Christian schools do not have large populations, they don't have certain economies of scale. Parents have to pay some extra fees to send their kids to these schools.
To get that government grant, all school boards must adhere reasonably well to the provincial government curriculum.
To further our discussion of centralizing/decentralizing, we have five political jurisdictions in our county:
1) County of Newell, which is the rural part and includes about five hamlets.
2) City of Brooks with about 14,000 of the 25,000 people.
3) Town of Bassano
4) Village of Duchess
5) Village of Rosemary
To me, the whole area should be amalgamated into one municipal government. The various jurisdictions are so interconnected that borders between them just don't make sense anymore.
The Burghal Hidage Added Mar 6, 2018 - 3:31pm
Strikes over. What's next?
Even A Broken Clock Added Mar 6, 2018 - 6:58pm
Dave - thanks. That approach (tax money goes with the student no matter where the student goes) is being viewed as a desirable option in several US states. I don't know if any state has fully adopted it. If any readers know about one that has, please weigh in. Obviously that approach is viewed with alarm by the existing public school systems since it involves true choice.
I think the model of public education is good, but the execution of it has deviated from its original intent, even in the decades since I participated in the process.
Even A Broken Clock Added Mar 6, 2018 - 7:04pm
Burghal and Jeanne, yes the strike is over. The net result is that all state employees will get a 5% raise next fiscal year after multiple years of no base raises. The state will struggle to come up with a balance between raised revenue estimates, and reduced programs to free up enough cash. Since the pay rates for many state workers was so low that many qualified for SNAP benefits, this will help them.
The insurance mess is like all health insurance. Rates are frozen for the next year, but the principle of a 80/20 share between employer contribution and employee skin in the game will still result in more rate rises in the future. Who knows how the long game will work out.
I will say that I'm proud that the labor dispute was completed with zero injuries and zero property damage. If you are going to have a strike, this was the best kind.
Incidentally, our land-line phone provider (Frontier) just went on strike this weekend as well. We almost had dueling pickets facing off across the Kanawha River, but the Frontier site is about a half mile downriver from the capital.
opher goodwin Added Mar 6, 2018 - 7:04pm
I believe that a national debate should take place to decide just exactly what the philosophy, ethos, purpose, curriculum and outcomes of education should be. Then it should be implemented and properly funded. At present it seems to be fragmented, unclear and poorly implemented.
Even A Broken Clock Added Mar 7, 2018 - 9:40am
Opher, I agree that there is no consensus on what education should be in the US. Any attempt at trying to provide a definition, even though it originated within the states like the Common Core, becomes derided as a communist / humanistic plot aimed at imposing thought control upon the impressionistic young'uns. I do not believe you could ever come up with a common agreement of what constitutes education in this nation. After all, you just posted about teaching creationism. As ludicrous as that concept is, it engenders significant conflict among the scientifically illiterate members of the electorate in this nation.
opher goodwin Added Mar 7, 2018 - 1:18pm
EABC - I still think that an attempt should be made. Until one has got an understanding of what it is that the education system is trying to achieve, what the philosophy behind it is and how is it to be implemented then I do not see how it can function and deliver. The American system seems so fragmented and does not appear to be working well. I perceive a failure of philosophy.
Jeffry Gilbert Added Mar 7, 2018 - 9:28pm
I'm always on the side of labor. 
The shipping company I worked for managed a 136% y-o-y profit increase while paying us $3800 a week. 
Without the union we'd have been making $3800 a month and the shipping company would have paid its C level execs double their seven figure bonuses. 
To all the wanna be John Snows out there a HUGE fuck you!
Leroy Added Mar 8, 2018 - 3:27pm
Opher, I agree that there is no consensus on what education should be in the US. Any attempt at trying to provide a definition, even though it originated within the states like the Common Core, becomes derided as a communist / humanistic plot aimed at imposing thought control upon the impressionistic young'uns."
Even, I agree.  We will never all agree on what our kids should be taught.  I even agree with the parents who don't want religion or nationalism taught in school.  I don't think I am any worse for it, but that is beside the point.  That is why parents need school choice.  Vouchers will do the trick.  Bet all those parents who protest against religion in the schools will send their kids to the best Catholic schools.  No more bitching about what is being taught.
Even A Broken Clock Added Mar 9, 2018 - 10:03am
Jeffry - I'm not familiar with the John Snow reference. Who or what was John Snow?
Leroy, I've often wondered if we could ever come up with a "social contract" that would delineate what we as a nation believe. Part of that would help to define what role education would play. The voucher system sounds like what Dave described for Canada. It may have some benefits but it seems like it would also have potential for abuse, especially if certain religious sects establish schools. For example, would you want taxpayer dollars sent to the Scientology elementary school?
Jeffry Gilbert Added Mar 9, 2018 - 4:03pm
A search engine like Duck Duck Go or even Goolag will answer that question. 
That said, Snow was the pathologically anti union CEO of CSX corp. I'll let you search for the companies CSX held. Pro hint: It wasn't only railroads. 
I sat across the negotiating table from that asshole with the only thing in mind to beat his arrogant ass into the carpet. I was the junior guy at the contract negotiation (read there to keep my mouth shut and learn) but my glower had an effect on him. :)
It was because of him that I moved as far away from my crew change city as possible just to cost the company more money transporting me business class between my domicile and the crew change city.  For instance, When I was on the North Atlantic run I lived in Hong Kong. When I was on the Pacific run I lived in Barcelona or Buenos Aires. 
Again, fuck the Snow wanna be's of the world. 

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