Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Struggle is Real

Make no mistake about it.  We are in a struggle.  Not the kind of struggle that involves armored vehicles, automatic weapons and stealth fighter planes.   It is struggle over the existence of Public Education as an important component of our country.  Actually, it goes deeper than that.  This is not just a war on our public school system which is being dismantled right before our eyes, but it is also a struggle against the people who populate our public unions.

Specifically, this is a war on Public Employees, the vast majority of whom are women.  Women make up the largest percentage of public school teachers, many of whom, due to the recent recession, are their families largest or even primary breadwinners. The National Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 58% of the workforce in our country is female.  Of that, 82% are Elementary and Middle School Teachers with a total of all women in education related professions at 72%.  These are women, who often have Master's degrees and beyond, provide health care and significant portions of their family's income.  Women who chose to teach, rather than pursue private employment because they love teaching and understand that the lower income is off-set by a pension later on and a true desire to contribute to society through their chosen profession.

The attack on our public school teachers, our public health care workers, and our public employees is an attack on women in our society.  Now, before you think this is crazy, consider this:  Is our state attacking our private industry unions with as much intensity and vehemence as they are towards the public unions?  Is the case before the Supreme Court (Freidrichs vs. California Teachers Association) targeted toward public employees (although it opens the door to removing the rights of private sector workers as well)?  Are charter schools being vilified the same way public schools are?  The answers are No, no and NO.

Why are we attacking the very people who are caring for our children and our community?  And not just any children... all children.  Public schools accept ALL children.  Teachers and others who work in public schools have no say over who is in their classrooms, how many students they get, what they are teaching and what, if any, support they get while teaching.  Teachers in public schools teach ALL children who walk through their doors.  These teachers have been known to spend thousands of dollars of their own money to outfit classrooms so that students have everything they need to learn and be successful.  These same teachers purchase clothing, Christmas gifts, food, glasses, boots and school supplies for the children they teach.  These women and men spend hours and hours of their personal time preparing for students, corresponding with parents and completing paperwork.  Most importantly, they come to school daily with a smile for the kids.

Why are our Public Employees being attacked?  The answer is both simple and complex.  Money.  It's all about the money.  The war on Public Education was never about the kids.  NEVER.  Not for one single second.  The war on Public Employees is a war on the middle class in America.  It is a war on the progress women have made in becoming economically independent.  It is a war on those of us who work hard and demand fair wages and benefits.  Women in our country make approximately $.79 on the dollar compared to their male counterparts nationwide.  In Right to Work States, that gap is even wider.

According to a recent publication by the AFL-CIO  in Right to Work states, wages are at least 12.2% lower ($5,971 less), more workers are without health insurance, poverty levels are higher and there is a 31% decrease in Education spending.  For women, this will be even more pronounced.  Teachers who work in public education make significantly more than teachers who work in Charter schools.  Charter schools tend to be non-unionized and have lower wages, longer hours, less protections and higher turnover rates.  Women are already affected by the gender gap and this disparity will increase if the Supreme Court allows all states to become RTW.  The case before the Supreme Court has quietly been "fast-tracked" in hopes of a desired outcome by those underwriting the case.  Do not be fooled that those organizations and individuals are not the least bit concerned about the teachers who they represent.  Breaking the Public Sector unions opens up ways to make for money for the private sector, i.e.: the privatization of prisons, water & sewer, police and fire services, to name just a few.

Keeping our public sector unions strong has far reaching effects on our communities and women in our workforce.  A strong economic package leads to a prosperous workforce that will participate in a democratic society.  Public sector unions represent a promising path for working women towards equality and economic security.  For the well-being of working women along with their families and communities, the health of public sector unions must be protected.

Ask yourself:  What kind of society are we if we continue to erode the rights of ordinary citizens who have dedicated their lives to public service?  What will happen if we allow the privatization of public services?  What will happen if we erode the organizations that protect worker's rights and a path towards fair wages and working conditions?

We need to fight to protect those essential public services that provide for a quality standard of living and the true meaning of democracy.  We are in a serious struggle.  We need to fight to maintain and expand what makes our society a just democracy for all our citizens.

Update:  This blog post was published on the Daily Public website!

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