Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Teachers Union Protests for Fun in Sheboygan

The Liberty Coalition of Sheboygan started planning to show the movie "The Cartel" about a month and a half ago. Apparently frustrated by their lack of ability to be where the action is in Madison, the Sheboygan arm of the Wisconsin teachers union decided to protest and picket the showing of this movie. They certainly have the right to exercise their freedom of speech in this way, however I think it was just taking advantage of an event that had been scheduled before these protests broke out.

Upon arriving at the mead library for the showing of the movie, I was greeted by the sight of maybe 100 to 150 protesters standing in front of the library doors chanting and drumming. They were being led in the chants by a woman who would yell "tell me what democracy looks like". Then the crowd would chance back "this is what democracy looks like". I have to agree with them. Democracy by its very nature is the mob rule. This is why our founders gave us a Republic.

The following movie was taken while walking the gauntlet to get into the library. I'm not saying that the protesters were angry or threatening in any way other than the fact that they constituted a fairly large crowd and that's a little intimidating, which is the point of such protests. I found it a little odd that there were so many outside protesting who then came inside to watch the very movie they were protesting against.

The Roca room in the library had about 80 to 100 people, many of whom had brought their signs in with them. There was a very obvious police presence outside of the library as you can see in the video and there was a cameraman from TMJ 4 both outside and inside after the movie. The head of the Sheboygan Liberty Coalition, Oriannah Paul, announced the code of conduct for the movie. There were basically three rules, your signs must be placed so that they are not obstructing the view of others; you may not speak out unless you're recognized; and please silence cell phones and pagers.

The Cartel is a documentary by Bob Bowdon that takes a look at the role of unions in the school district of New Jersey. It basically details the huge amount of waste in school district's spending in New Jersey. Or at least it's assumed to be waste because, even though they spend the highest amount per student of any state in the nation, they have some of the worst results. Their eighth graders were 39% proficient in reading and 40% proficient in math. There is also a very high dropout rate.

The film compared the average cost of teachers salaries($50,000 plus benefits)to the average cost per classroom($300-400,000, and asked the question:"Where is the rest of the money going?" The conclusion was that the money was going to unions, unneeded facilities upgrades and unnecessary layers of administration and bureaucracy. There was a huge amount of corruption shown. The film also concluded that schools are big business for unions and others, because everybody wants their children to be well educated and not many people are paying attention to where the money is going.

When the movie presented an account of a teacher who was prevented by union rules from volunteering her time to do an extracurricular activity after school hours with the students, a parent in front of me leaned over to her daughter and whispered "That's not true". I don't know how she reached that conclusion. The account was almost certainly true and I have heard similar accounts from teachers in WI.

The bottom line of the film is that communities need to be aware of how their money is being spent and hold feet to the fire when funds are being misused. (Those feet can belong to the unions, the school's administrative bodies and/or legislators.)At least that's the message I got from it. Clearly, I was a minority in that conclusion as most of the teachers and union people present seemed to think the film was being shown as propaganda just to make them look bad.

This is one of the problems with holding onto an ideology without regard to the facts. I sincerely doubt that the teachers union would have shown up to protest this movie had it not been for the budget protests going on in Madison right now. That's why I labeled this post as I did. There seemed to be little regard on the part of the teachers for the facts presented in the film. I can understand disregarding statistics(the third kind of lie), but ignoring facts in favor of feeling hard done by because it makes the ideology or organization you claim as your own look bad, is denial.

One of the attendees remarked to those around her:"Why is it okay for corporations to have it[collective bargaining] and not us?" Because, as the film stated, the party paying the bills(the taxpayers)is often not being represented at the bargaining table in a public union situation.

When a private corporation sits down to bargain with their union, they all know a number of fixed facts. The cost of materials, the number of hours required for production, shipping costs, building maintenance, and etc, needed to produce whatever is produced. They know how much their sales are likely to be and how much they can and cannot raise prices to meet their costs. In other words, the money available to pay for all the necessary steps of production is a fixed amount and there must be a certain percentage of profit obtained or there's no reason to have a business.

When the unions are dealing with a government, those numbers are a lot more fluid. There seems to be an assumption that if the union demands more, the government can simply raise taxes and the money for those increases will fall out of the sky. That is the difference.

That may have appeared to be true in years past, but now it is crunch time. Taxes are as high as the people will bear and prices on goods and services are going up. This is the showdown that is occurring in WI and across the nation. This is not the taxpayer telling the public employees that they are bad people or that they don't deserve to be compensated with a specific amount, but rather that there is no more money available to pay more taxes. If that means that these public sector employees feel that they must seek employment that will pay them better, then so be it.

The taxpayers of WI are not trying to denigrate the public workers, we are simply saying this is how much we can pay right now. There isn't any more and no amount of protesting is going to make more appear. Do what is best for you. If you can't afford to work for us anymore, then best of luck to you in your new position, whatever it is and we will look for those who can afford to work for what we can offer.

"And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, And what shall we do? And he said unto them, Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages."~ Luke 3:14


Soapbox Jill said...

Amazing how they kind of took over the space and coalition meeting, isn't it? They chanted, "this is what democracy looks like" but later led cheers for the 14 Wis. senators who fled the state to avoid doing their job..
Have you seen my piece on it? I've got a few more pictures there, too.
Nice analysis, Mom.

Call Me Mom said...

I did see your piece on it and I was glad to find out how the question and answer session went after I had to leave.