2005-09-29 / View From the Middle

“Extortion” Tactics By Teachers Union Simply Won’t Work

View From The Middle
By Charles Rogers


It probably won’t be long until there’s a new teachers’ contract. They haven’t had one with the city for about two-and-a-half years, after all. Lately, they’ve been making their voices heard louder and louder (and louder and louder), probably because school is back in full session.

There is no doubt the teachers deserve to have the backing of their powerful, usually very effective union, the United Federation of Teachers, in forging their contract. There is also no doubt they should have come to an agreement before this. It does strike one (pardon the expression “strike”) as to how long they can hold out, however. By this time, to hear them talk, you’d think the teachers would be either on their way out of the city or kneeling in the gutter in front of CBGB’s in the Bowery asking for a handout.

Through an agreed-to state panel, the proposed contract at this time calls for an 11.4 percent pay raise over three years if the teachers work at least three more days a year and instruct students ten minutes more each day. That doesn’t sound too tough to take. (An article in last Thursday’s New York Post suggests to me that working less than seven hours a day for approximately 181 days a year can’t be such a bad deal, even if you make it seven hours and ten minutes a day and 184 days a year) There are a few other givebacks, such as eliminating the right to refute negative evaluations in their file.

One can’t say there’s anything wrong with those proposals, except for the last one. I’d be damned if someone’s accusation of wrongdoing was put into my record and I was not allowed to challenge it. No way!

With all due respect to teachers — and I honestly do respect them — I must say their union, headed by the now-more and more vociferous Randi Weingarten, has some nerve to so blatantly use their supposed political clout to try to force the city to acquiesce to their demands. They reportedly told Schools Chan-cellor Joel Klein — and Mayor Michael Bloomberg — that if there were no contract before their October meeting, they would call for authorizing a strike vote (a strike by teachers is against the law) and — get this — they would consider endorsing Democratic Mayoral Candidate Fernando Ferrer instead of in-cumbent Mayor Bloomberg.

Unacquainted as I am with exact, official legal terms — except what I see weekly on the police blotter — isn’t that extortion ? Isn’t that telling somebody you’re going to take a daring, drastic action against him/her unless he/she does what you want him/her to do?

And isn’t that illegal ? Uh, against the law ? Uh, a bad thing to do? Aren’t teachers supposed to show good examples to those whom they teach? Aren’t they supposed to be good examples and not use extortionist threats to try to get what they want?

And, incidentally, isn’t it downright laughable, too? I mean, saying you’re going to vote for Ferrer is nutty enough, but to use that move as a so-called threat against Bloomberg is like…like…like saying you’re going to smack Hulk Hogan with a wet noodle!

Another “threat” Weingarten was quoted as proposing is a large rally by teachers in front of City Hall sometime before the next election. The Daily News said she told delegates that the rally would “shut down lower Manhattan.”

Well, we’ve been through such threats and such

rallies before and with other, more powerful and larger unions and, well, everyone had his say, traffic was tied up, and lower Manhattan was indeed shut down…for awhile. Then things went back to normal. I guess Ms. Weingarten has forgotten:

This is New York. We’re used to it.

Remember ’way back at the beginning of this column when I intimated the teachers have a pretty good union?

Maybe not. Maybe not.

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