The Seeker

A Meta-Cognitive Journal About Writing… Plus Other Stuff

Scenes From a Strike– The Day After

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We had our final pre-strike meeting at the union hall 9 days ago.  We were joined by a number of veteran teachers and union members from neighboring districts who came to offer their support and impart wisdom born from their strike experiences.  A common refrain among them was that upon re-entering the building after a successful strike, we would feel like we own the place.  That felt like undue embellishment–or even hubris–to me, but I kept careful record of my emotions this morning from the time my alarm went off until I taught my first few classes of the day.  I felt…  like it was back to business as usual.  That’s my default setting as a teacher, and one I am constantly striving to maintain.  High school students need a “normal” setting, and classes function best when that setting is firmly established early and steadfastly maintained throughout the year, regardless of the ups and down.  I lost about zero time discussing the strike and all its implications.  That is mostly due to my class load, which is dominated by remedial freshmen.  Most of them hardly know anything about the situation, weren’t impacted by it, or don’t care.  We got back to business as usual quickly, and remained there all day.  By the time I got to my upper classmen late in the day, they had been debriefed enough that the strike fit as comfortably into their schema as could be expected.

This isn’t to say that things didn’t feel different, it’s just to say that I didn’t feel like I own the building.  But I do feel like I’ve weathered the most turbulent storm of my teaching career, one capable of wanton destruction, the wake of which I would be caught in for many years, and I know full well that I couldn’t have made it without my union brothers and sisters.  There is a tremendous sense of security in that feeling, so more than anything else, I feel secure.

I should also mention that I feel well-fed–even over-fed.  There was food all over the place on the picket line, and so much “welcome back” food in offices today that it might as well have been the day we go on Christmas vacation.  So I guess it’s back to the regular workout routine for me.

My desk, just as I left it--deliberately arranged so in the event of a scab assuming my position.

One of the first pieces I ever wrote on The Seeker was this one about a school board in Texas that approved teachers to carry weapons as a means of school security:  You and Your Local School Board.  I cautioned at the end that school boards need to be monitored closely.  Last winter, I wrote Watch Your Borders.  It was about area Tea Party school board members in a neighboring district who were trying to put the screws to teachers sympathetic to the Wisconsin protestors opposing the over-the-top legislation proposed by Scott Walker that eventually eliminated collective bargaining rights for public employees.  Violating the constitutional rights of those teachers, and incurring untold costs in possible lawsuits, meant nothing to the people leading the charge.  I never imagined while writing those pieces that they would essentially be a mash-up of what has happened in my district over the last year and a half.

Some of the tactics used against us were shrewd, methodical, and plotted far ahead of time so as to cause maximum devastation. Something as profound as cancelling the health insurance of an entire collective bargaining unit isn’t a step you take without knowing far ahead of time exactly how to do it legally. Other tactics were used for pure intimidation. If nothing else, some people have shown that not only are they bullies, but they are the worst kind: They connived far ahead of time exactly how to plunge their knives as deep into our backs as they could. How can those people ever be trusted again?

I can’t help but feel that if more people were watching the school board instead of letting them run rampant, so much of this could have been avoided.  Had more stakeholders checked in with contract negotiations and took the board to task for refusing to talk to the union and walking away from negotiations, this could have been resolved earlier and perhaps without a strike.  If there is one thing we know from history, it is that when good people fail to act, bad things can happen.  I am convinced that Tea Party politics played a huge part in what happened.  I think certain people were looking for a way to break the union’s back and to have their names at the top of the list of the gallant patriots who seized control of public education in Lake County.  Once we gave in, the template would have been established and other districts would have followed it to the letter to break union solidarity.  Thankfully, we held the line.  Our unity helped win us a fair contract.  How we did it can now be the template for other unions that find themselves in similar situations.

Written by seeker70

January 11, 2012 at 6:14 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. I was having a discussing with one of the plant guys today. The gist was was his belief that that middle class was being squeezed by corporate interests (which I agree with), that the political process allowing corporations to have the same rights as people hurts the American public, and my fear that we’re going back towards the days of company towns. Not through geographic location, but through wages and lack of options. The vast majority of people have jobs and careers, that’s what dictates their day to day living, that is their reality. The top of the corporate food chain doesn’t care about that as they can take their bonus and go elsewhere. There is no reason to be loyal to the employees or the company as a whole.
    The greed and short sightedness stuns me most days. But we both know it’s not going to change.

    Adam Vollmers

    January 11, 2012 at 7:29 pm

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