They are fighting for their right to improved salaries, benefits, manageable class sizes, up to date equipment and text books. Through their organized efforts they are giving the nation’s middle class hope.
West Virginia, Oklahoma, Arizona and most recently Kentucky teachers exemplify what an organized labor can do. Over two decades without collective bargaining units has resulted in stagnant wages and reduced benefits for the middle class while the cost of living continues to rise. Without an organized labor force and the threat of a walk out, corporations and state governments will continue to fix wages, working conditions, increase teacher’s share of health insurance premiums, squeeze the learning process into a four-day week, require after school sponsorship and coaching responsibilities, force teachers to pay for teaching supplies and innovative resources. Teachers have said, “enough”.
Stagnated wages and reduced benefits have been the norm since trickledown economics and Right to Work laws were advanced in the eighties. Prior and during the Industrial Revolution one was essentially born into one of two classes – working class or upper class. There was no middle class. Children of the working class, denied access to an education, job training, health care, job security and a safe working environment would join their parents and at any early age fill the ranks of a serfdom serving manufacturers.
Laws favored the manufacturer, not the worker. It was assumed that those at the top would take care of those at the bottom. This didn’t happen. Currently, Rep. Paul Ryan, and most conservatives are advocates of this assumption.
In the thirties, a social awareness infiltrated the hearts and minds of both political parties. They began to construct federally mandated programs supporting the needs of the working class. Labor won the right to collectively bargain. Negotiated contracts increased wages and improved working conditions and health and vacation benefits became reality. The middle class was born.
A middle class tax bracket made possible a mandated minimum wage, workmen’s compensation and child labor laws. New social programs provided a safety net for the poor, elderly and children. The rich also found they could continue to get richer.
The thought of returning to a time when a working class exits to serve the upper class is abhorrent. Programs which created a safety net for children, elderly, poor, disabled, and chronically ill are once again threatened. Union busting laws and state and federal budgets continue to herald favoritism of the rich while failing the working and middle classes.
Hopefully, the organized effort of West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky and Arizona teachers is a sign of things to come. They are fighting for their right to improved salaries, benefits, manageable class sizes, up to date equipment and text books. Through their organized efforts they are giving the nation’s middle class hope. Thank you, teachers!