Teachers and the History of the Labor Movement
Students have seen the results of taking their work home by teachers protesting pension reform legislation in the 1970s and 1980s. The turmoil was caused by the Baby Boomers who were involved in the World Wars, and their belief was that the United States had never taken time to pay back its debt to the government. It seems that teachers have been inspired by that past struggle to raise their voices again to bring attention to their demands to leave the school system free from income inequality.
Will the strikes fail?
Teachers and unions are viewed as a last resort to maintaining power, however, they can still continue to focus on efforts to resolve budget issues that are affecting school budgets. Yet, as protests continue, it is impossible to determine what the future will hold for the next few years, and it is hard to know what the outcome will be in terms of school closures, such as the one recently experienced in Red Hook, New York. The teachers strike occurred to fund their pensions, which according to the state constitution would be safe, yet could go away by the action. Any layoffs would then affect parents and students that would be without their education at school, especially if the strike was prolonged. This happened in 1980 in states such as California, Wisconsin, and New Jersey, where several districts had teachers furloughed. Once the strike continued, so did the furloughs, as the schools had already been running without the stipend for union representation. The teachers had lost their jobs and were forced to reapply for them, while their district education plans faced a wait for when the contract was finally settled. The tests were delayed and problems continued to arise from classrooms, as word spread about closures and furloughs. The strike had become a public spectacle that lasted for several weeks.
What does the history of the labor movement have to teach us?
Because teachers are concerned about what will happen to their pensions, they will continue to fight for higher pensions. Therefore, they are looking to the future for future school budgets. If a teacher loses his or her job and is unable to go back to his or her classroom, there is a chance that his or her students will have problems in meeting state requirements, as well as continue to struggle. There will be teachers-the best teachers-who have been left without any savings as a result of the strike and will likely find it difficult to afford to continue teaching. Teachers who have retired and received pensions and paychecks have also suffered as the practice of deducting benefits from paychecks has grown to the point where teachers are no longer making a profit. It seems their pensions will be safe by the strike, but it seems unlikely that they will have the same lifestyle when they retire as they did previously, and their families will suffer as well. Meanwhile, parents need to ensure that the rights of their children are considered by governing bodies in the future. They need to teach their children what it means to have a workplace, and what benefits are provided to employees.
It seems that history shows that if a union fights for a cause that can bring big change, it will have the chance of succeeding. The bond between workers, unions, and their employer seems to be difficult to break. That fact gives them a greater chance of success. Asking teachers to fight back for better pensions could bring in benefits for not only themselves, but their students and their society.