Class Warfare Blog

November 21, 2017

Teachers Unions? Bah, Who Needs Them?

Six years ago, the state of Wisconsin passed the highly controversial 2011 Wisconsin Act 10, which virtually eliminated collective bargaining rights for most public-sector workers, as well as slashed those workers’ benefits, among other changes.

As Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) argued, “We no longer have seniority or tenure. That means we can hire and fire based on merit, we can pay based on performance. That means we can put the best and the brightest in our classrooms and we can pay them to be there.”

Well, did they?

What do you think will happen to an employer who slashes wages and benefits? People will leave their employ. Who leaves first? The people who have the most confidence they can find another job, that is the best workers. Who stays. The sluggards, the unimaginative, the fearful … not all, of course, but a higher concentration of these stay. (Studies have shown this to be the case.)

Action Reaction
An analysis of the effect of Act 10 has found:

  • In the year immediately following the law’s passage, median compensation for Wisconsin teachers decreased by 8.2 percent in inflation-adjusted terms, with median benefits being cut by 18.6 percent and the median salary falling by 2.6 percent. Median salaries and benefits continued to fall during the next four years so that median compensation in the 2015-16 school year was 12.6 percent—or $10,843 dollars—lower than it was before the passage of Act 10.

  • The percentage of teachers who left the profession spiked to 10.5 percent after the 2010-11 school year, up from 6.4 percent in the year before Act 10 was implemented. Exit rates have remained higher than before, with 8.8 percent of teachers leaving after the 2015-16 school year— the most recent school year for which data are available.
  • The percentage of teachers with less than five years of experience increased from 19.6 percent in the 2010-11 school year to 24.1 percent in the 2015-16 school year.
  • Average teaching experience decreased from 14.6 years in the 2010-11 school year to 13.9 in the 2011-12 school year, which is where it remained in the 2015-16 school year.
  • Interdistrict moves—when a teacher leaves one Wisconsin district to teach at another the next school year—has increased from 1.3 percent before the passage of Act 10 to 3.4 percent at the end of the 2014-15 school year.

Are you surprised?

The False Narrative
The core of the false narrative is in plain sight; it is “That means we can hire and fire based on merit, we can pay based on performance.” This is a business model. The problem is that in a business, the “boss” owns the company (or the boss’s boss or the …). The owner has the right to hire and fire inherent in his ownership. In a public school, the “owner” is the public, the taxpayers of the school district. There is no mechanism by which those owners can fire anyone (by state law). Prior to Act 10, the “owner” of each school district elected a school board which carried out negotiations with the employees to determine wages and working conditions. In no school district of which I am aware are teachers getting rich. When you think of employees getting rich, you think of doctors, lawyers, stock brokers, high level executives, but teachers … not so much. Having high educational attainment did not result in abnormally high wages for teachers, but there were tradeoffs: instead of higher salaries, better benefits and working conditions were offered and accepted, through negotiation. Act 10 chopped the head off of local control and took it over at the state level. (Republicans in favor of local control? Not so much.)

So, how did the minions of the schools (principals?) do in hiring the best and the brightest? How did they do in paying for performance? How did they do with getting the bums out of the racket? Aren’t these business types always talking about how important good management is? Was there any effort to improve the quality of the people in charge? No? (No.)

As usual, the actual motives for Act 10 was not in the bullshit offered by proponents. The Koch Brothers-fueled politician, Scott Walker, was executing a typical anti-union action for the billionaire class. Unions are the only organization with enough power to resist the oppression of workers by employers, hence they have to go. (Plus they tend to vote Democrat.)

But actions have reactions. Too bad Scott Walker doesn’t feel any of the reaction … just the teachers and the students and the “owners” of the school district. The Koch Brothers, in reaction, kept pouring money into Scott Walker’s presidential candidacy and into his gubernatorial re-election campaign coffers. If you want quality workers, you gotta pay them!

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November 6, 2017

Live Off of the Land? Move Along, Nothing to See Here

The empire keeps striking back, as this article about the legal foundation of the common use of the land to sustain oneself shows. This battle is still being waged today.

The elites do not want us to use common land to sustain our lives. They need to be able to coerce our labor to their benefit, not ours. And their efforts continue to this day.

Read it and weep: Why You’ve Never Heard of a Charter as Important as the Magna Carta

 

November 3, 2017

Conservative A-hole Tanks Own Company Because Union

According to the California Today column in today’s NY Times:

“… popular news sites went dark on Thursday after its parent company DNAinfo shut down the entire Gothamist network of city-centric websites.
“The move came a week after reporters and editors at the New York newsrooms of Gothamist and DNAinfo voted to join a union.
“On Thursday, visitors to the websites were greeted by a post from Joe Ricketts, the company’s billionaire owner and founder of TD Ameritrade. He praised journalists who ‘reported tens of thousands of stories that have informed, impacted, and inspired millions of people.’
“But he added, ‘DNAinfo is, at the end of the day, a business, and businesses need to be economically successful if they are to endure.’“Mr. Ricketts, who started DNAinfo in 2009 and bought Gothamist last spring, had been outspoken in his dislike of unions.“As the company’s New York employees moved to unionize last spring, management warned that DNAinfo had been losing money for years. Mr. Ricketts later wrote, ‘I believe unions promote a corrosive us-against-them dynamic that destroys the esprit de corps businesses need to succeed.’”

Conservatives have poisoned their own minds about unions so much that this, er, gentlemen, couldn’t see a major opportunity right in front of himself.

If it were true that the company had been losing money for years (one has to ask why one expands a company by buying another one when one is losing money, but we understand one has to spend money to make money), but I digress, if the company has been losing money for years, open the books to your new union and ask them to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem. Closing the company is still an option, in fact it is a big hammer to use if conventional negotiations were to occur. (I’d rather avoid conventional negotiations and instead prefer interest-based negotiations, but one doesn’t always control how things will go.)

Possibly, if the company were losing money, the union could be a source of ideas as to how to reverse that trend. Certainly it would damper a unions lust after better wages and working conditions for its members.

Companies of European origin who set up shop in the U.S. actively encourage the formation of unions as being effective partners in the running of a profitable company. European countries include union officers on their boards of governors, often by law as well as custom. Of course, in the U.S. they run into conservative state and federal government representatives who put the kibosh on such efforts when they occur. We can’t have examples of working, cooperative unions to be able to point to now, can we?

We would like to know whether Mr. Ricketts has ever been a member of a union, or worked in a union environment, or managed a union-based company. I suspect not. I assume he got his information from other rich assholes like himself, who have no idea what they are talking about and would rather put out their eyes than see what is right in front of them.

In this case the creator of the “corrosive us-against-them dynamic” is certainly not the newly created labor union, it never had a chance to act one way or the other. Gosh, I wonder then, what the source of that “corrosive dynamic” was? Hmm.

October 26, 2017

The Republicans Don’t Think

The Republicans don’t think … you need the right to sue your bank, your investment banker, or really any financial agent, because, gosh, they would never do anything even kind of shady, certainly nothing illegal, because that would hurt their reputation and be bad for business. That little kerfuffle in 2008 in which U.S. bankers brought the world’s economy to its knees and permanently made the U.S. economy weaker, that was just a misunderstanding.

The Republicans don’t think … we needed all of those guides to the laws protecting the rights of disabled children and adults. Those people already get too much mollycoddling. Ignorance of the law is no excuse, am I right?

The Republicans don’t think … you’ll mind cutting 20 to 35 million people off of the Obamacare rolls, because Repeal & Replace! Repeal & Replace! Well, Repeal and Maybe Replace If We Can Find the Time, Kinda, Sorta! It’s complicated; who would have known?

The Republicans don’t think … you’ll mind if they remove contraception coverage from Obamacare and restrict abortion rights because women should not have control over their own reproductive rights, their own bodies … because … because they’re sluts anyway and … because God said so!

The Republicans don’t think … you’ll mind going toe to toe with North Korea with nuclear weapons even if they do manage to drop a few nukes on California. They’re just a bunch of liberals who vote Democrat way too often, there in California.

The Republicans don’t think … you’ll mind giving the coal and nuclear industries big federal tax cuts, no wait, direct subsidies, because those corporations have suffered enough … wait, those workers, yeah, those workers have suffered enough. Pop-yoo-liz-um, pop-yoo-liz-um, pop-yoo-liz-um, rah, rah, rah!

The Republicans don’t think … coal mining corporations should be banned from dumping their toxic, heavy metal-laced wastes into public streams and rivers, because those corporations have suffered enough … uh … well … look, look at the waving flag and those NFL players disrespectfully kneeling as if they were praying during the national anthem! Disrespectful, disrespect while being Black!

The Republicans don’t think … we need all of those national parks and monuments. All that land and none of their donor class making a cent off of them … outrageous!

The Republicans don’t think … you’ll mind taking money away from your public schools to fund charter schools and voucher programs that perform no better than the public schools and often far, far worse. It’s for the children! And, rich Republicans need a publicly-funded voucher to be able to send their kids to private religious schools they are already sending them to. That thing in the Constitution … the Founding Fathers didn’t really mean it.

The Republicans don’t think … you’ll object to massive tax cuts for the rich as long as you will get a miniscule one, too. Never mind the cuts in public services, needed because of all of the revenue lost in tax cuts for the rich, will offset the minimal tax cuts for the rest of us, making our lives worse. I mean, nobody likes to pay taxes, right?

The Republicans don’t think … we should go along to get along, especially on things like Climate Change. The U.S. is exceptional; we lead, others follow. And we certainly don’t follow a whole horde of pointy-headed intellectual climate scientists. Sheesh, what do they know?

The Republicans don’t think … that we think enough to notice the way things are going.

The real question is: are they right?

Do Not Pay Attention to Trump’s Words

Do Pay Attention to His Administration’s Actions

October 3, 2017

GOP Gets What It Wants: Guns and Prayers

As we go through the usual fruitless discussions on the gun regulations we need but won’t get after yet one more mass killing using readily available guns, it is clear that the GOP is getting what it wants. In thrall to the NRA, a lobbying organization with fewer than five million members, the GOP wants no new gun regulations and has even moved to eliminate some of the ones we have. (It is puzzling to me that a lobby like the NRA, which has maybe one eighth as many members as, say, does AARP, has such power over a political party. Heck, it also wields great power over the Dems, too. It is puzzling.)

It is clear that Americans want sensible gun regulations in contrast with the NRA, which wants none. The motivation for the NRA is, of course, sales for its supporting corporations, the gun and ammunition manufacturers. So, Americans are dying in numbers greater than most other advanced nations combined, to support the corporate profits of those companies. And Congresspeople don’t care where their money comes from, apparently.

So, the GOP will triumph, again, as they will continue to receive money and votes for not passing gun legislation.

Which leaves people with nothing but their prayers, which have not been effective as is the case with all prayers, but if they are all you have, they are worth a try. These prayers further another GOP goal, that of moving us toward becoming a theocracy, a deep desire of the evangelical base of the GOP.

More guns, more prayers: the GOP agenda in action!

 

September 27, 2017

Failing to Ax Your Health Insurance the GOP Turns Its Gaze Onto Tax Cuts … for the Wealthy

Not only do they want to cut the individual rates for rich people, they want to cut corporate taxes that will result in those corporations funneling the tax savings to their executives and shareholders, yep, the rich again.

This is must reading! http://reclaimtheamericandream.org/2017/09/inside-tax-cut-job-growth-myth/

They will claim this will create jobs … all evidence to the contrary including according a Republican Congressional study in 2012.

September 24, 2017

Republican Healthcare Policy Laziness

Once again the GOP has a proposed policy in the U.S. Senate to “Repeal and Replace™” Obamacare. That it would repeal Obamacare is without doubt, the problem comes with the “replace” part. They can’t seem to come up with anything like a coherent plan to do that. Their latest effort seems to be the worst of the recent lot and opposed by even the health insurance lobby along with the other usual suspects.

The GOP seems like the student looking for the minimum effort path through a college course of study. They want a passing grade but they really do not want to have to do any real work. Consider the following alternate scenario: after the passage of Obamacare, the GOP (one of its plutocratic sponsors pays for the effort) sets up a private study group to come up with a better plan. They have access to all kinds of healthcare experts, policy wonks, and expertise in the insurance marketplace. They come up with a water tight plan to pull out of their pocket at a moment’s notice. Ta da!

There are any number of available working models. The Swiss have a model that works, built entirely upon private insurance companies; that should appeal to the small government types. The Medicare, Medicaid, and the VA all have systems that work quite well, with high patient satisfaction levels. (The VA’s much touted problems are administrative and mostly related to computer services and processing of new members, not based on quality of service.) The models they do not favor, like those in the UK and France are well-documented to supply them with evidence against those systems should they need any. This is a piece for cake for consultants willing to accept the generous funding supplied (a few million bucks one way or another).

So, why hasn’t the GOP “done its homework”? Surely something better than the despised Obamacare has to be available. Maybe it has done its homework and failed to come up with something better. I believe there are all kinds of things better than Obamacare, but the genie has been let out of the bottle. All of the better alternatives lead away from GOP cherished ideologies and not toward them. The Swiss system of health insurance, which is intensely driven through private insurance companies, is heavily regulated by the government, for instance.

I guess there is no system that works that includes the GOP preferred “pay as you go,” market-based, non-governmental ideology. Interesting.

Or maybe the GOP’s representatives are just lazy, stupid, and mean. Occam’s razor applies here.

September 6, 2017

On Dependency

He’s a good boy and a better science writer than I ever was. Go buy a copy!

I am reading my son’s new book (Eating to Learn, Learning to Eat by A.R. Ruis) which addresses the history of school lunch programs in the U.S. One of the “concerns” that comes up frequently in the political debates is the “fear of dependency” if kids were to receive a free lunch at school everyday. (Yes, I know. It just goes to show you how many fucking morons there are.) This was not much of a debate for parents but was for the rich (White) power structures of American cities.

The evidence that children showed up at school either malnutritioned or just plain hungry were readily available. Kids were also diseased and pest ridden back in the day. That many men couldn’t pass a physical to be inducted into the Army for World War I made school lunches a national issue as well.

This is not my topic. My topic is the “dependency” claim made by conservatives and conservative interests. The conservatives have used loaded and coded language for all of my life in these debates. The “dependency” fear mongering is steeped in racism and politics.

The reason conservatives eschew giving “handouts” to poor people is not that such will make them dependent, although they hammer on that drum insistently. Their real fear is that poor people will become politically dependent on the people who are providing the assistance and then will vote for them. Conservatives do not want to get into a competition as to which political party, say, can be in charge of the “handouts” because that will just inflate the size of the assistance through competition, so they do not want to play that game. But neither do they want the Democrats, say, to become the party that provides the assistance and then gets the votes. It is not about dependency but to whom they would be dependent.

On top of that they believe that the votes of poor people will be for ever increasing “handouts” that will then require increased tax revenues from the rich to support them. So, they fear monger: such assistance promotes “dependency, is “socialism,” etc. Actually they also believe that the poor are not worthy. The Black and Brown poor are obviously not worthy, but neither are the White poor, even the working White poor. In the mind of Conservatives, if those people were worthy, they wouldn’t need assistance! Talk about a prosperity gospel … in reverse.

We are all familiar with the parental advice to not feed stray cats and dogs as the family will soon have a new pet to feed. I spin this when visiting old friends or relatives I haven’t seen in a while when the topic of their children comes up. They are invariably bigger than the last time I saw them so I say “I warned you what will happen if you fed them!”

If you feed a child or a hungry adult, all you are doing is reducing the amount of hunger in the world and allowing them to grow or live normally. You do not draw the line there. If your Vegan neighbor crashes your barbecue party and complains to you about the menu … that’s where you draw the line.

August 17, 2017

Moving from Making War For the People to Making War On the People

As the Republicans are busy shrinking government until it is left with just two functions: making war/protecting borders and protecting contracts (especially corporate ones, but not labor ones), we would do well to understand how they got to their current position.

In 1994 John Ehrlichman, President Nixon’s domestic-policy adviser and a Watergate co-conspirator, confessed this to the author Dan Baum:

The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or blacks, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.

The strategy, particularly of locking up Black people for drug offences, continues to this day. Convicted criminals lose the right to vote in many states. Convicted criminals lose most if not all job opportunities. Convicted criminals lose their voice. All good for Republicans, who are making war on the people, not for the people.

The Republican Party:
Systematically Disenfranchising Black Voters Since 1968

(Actually much earlier, but that didn’t make for a snappy slogan. S)

June 24, 2017

Call Them Scum and See them Flock to Your State!

Who said “ye shall reap what ye sow?” (That particular phrase is not in the Bible, but equivalent phrases are, many times.)

Republicans have been beating on teachers for years, calling them “pigs at the public trough,” and undermining their collective bargaining rights, as well as blaming them for all of the ills of our public schools. (The last complaint is like blaming auto workers for the bad designs of General Motors cars in the late twentieth century.)

The law of unintended consequences applies, though, and Nevada, a leading Republican bastion, is facing a 22% shortage (!), that’s one in five, in qualified teachers in their schools (see here). Who needs ‘em, you ask? Ask the kids in classes that have one of the bodies plugged into place in their stead. The qualifications for teachers were not established by teachers, they were established by democratically-elected school boards and democratically-elect law makers to set minimum standards of competence for teachers. What does it say when your schools boast of having one of five teachers not up to minimum standards?

But then, many in the GOP are in favor of doing away with democratically-elected school boards anyway. Replace them with corporate boards. They are much more responsible to their communities needs.

Missing in all of this is the reason the GOP and their conservative backers have gone after unions: basically teachers tend to vote democratic and had the temerity to form unions which not only work for better benefits and rights for teachers, but also advocate for students. Them students should learn to sit down and shut up and be happy with whatever paycheck they end up with.

Too much democracy is not a good thing. This is also why GOP state governments are disempowered local jurisdictions (cities, counties, etc.) wholesale.

This is not “alt-right” stuff but alternate universe stuff. Sheesh!

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