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Friday, February 25, 2011

Welcome to The Real World

I had a colleague ask me what she should say to family members who reply with “welcome to the real world” in answer to her concerns over this budget bill and the drastic decrease to school funding coming in the 2012-2013 budget. I feel sad that these people have had to accept work conditions that make them resent someone who has only slightly better working conditions.

First of all, she could encourage them to explore the history of unions. Labor battles were violent and bloody in the early days of the union movement. Both employers and unionists were responsible for this violence. The workers, however, were responding to generations of mistreatment, working conditions that threatened lives, and pay that kept them in poverty.
Unions help set the standards for all jobs; the 40 hour work week, weekends, and employer benefit programs are just some of the benefits everyone gains from the labor movement. So, anyone who is in a work environment that makes them feel envious should look into forming a union in their own work place. Start by contacting the National Labor Relations Board (nlrb.gov) or the national union organization appropriate to the specific trade. They should do so while private sector unions are still allowed.

In a world where the state dictates working conditions in “civil servant” rules (yet unwritten by the way) the ability of local governments (city boards and school district boards) to establish a work environment suitable for their individual needs will be limited.

For example, this will limit the ability of a school board to control class sizes. Since state funding (which is being cut as well) will be tied to limits on taxes, the ability to hire adequate teaching staff will be gone. Think you child is getting an okay education now? How good of an education will it be when the class sizes are doubled or tripled? I shudder to think what the consequences will be if the rumor is true that Walker is also looking to reject SAGE and Title I funding.

Our school district's board met on Wednseday, February 23 to give preliminary lay off notices. These layoffs were rushed and had to be made with little consideration of how they would impact student learning. We all know that education really isn't free; taxes are collected from various sources and used to pay for the teachers, buildings, and resources needed to provide this education. It is only “free” in that we don't collect admission at the door.

And that will likely be changing too. One of the ideas being considered to make our school's budget balance is to start charging fees for more classes.

These same reductions will likely happen in all areas. What happens when we hire fewer snow plow drivers? What happens when those who help people in need are cut?

One answer is that we will hire private contractors to do the work. This is ridiculous because we are still paying them money. When we had a snow plow driver who lived in this town and was paid by the town to do the work, his money went right back into the local economy. Okay, we might be able to pay a contractor a percentage less, but they are in turn hiring people at reduced wages. The only people who benefit from privatization are the ones who run the companies providing the service, and they will likely take that money out of the local economy.

Paying people you know a good wage to do a job they are good at shouldn't be seen as some sort of commie/socialist evil. This is the way the world should work.

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