By Alexandria Jezina Columnist
In the last week the Chicago Teachers Union agreed to end striking, coming to an agreement over the contract that was seen as a win-win for both sides. The contract stipulates to lengthen school days, give principals the ability to hire teachers, have student scores be part of teacher evaluations, and give annual raises to teachers. It also called for assistance in helping laid-off teachers with high scores find a new teaching job.
The whole issue that played out in Chicago in the previous week brings national attention to the issues of unions in general. Just this past summer in Wisconsin, a recall vote was called in reaction to Gov. Scott Walker (R) striking down on unions and breaking the power the unions held in the state by removing the right of collective bargaining. As union power fluctuates from state to state, it is becoming a prevalent concern of citizens especially in the education sector. Citizens are facing the question: Are unions beneficial or detrimental, especially to those who have no ties to unions?
Gov. Chris Christie (R) of New Jersey is known for his anti-union ideals concerning specifically the NJEA. Before his anti-union bill passed in 2011, he referred to the NJEA as “greedy” and stated that they “care more about putting money in their own pockets and the pockets of their members than they care about educating our most vulnerable and needy children around the country.” The current law increased the pension and healthcare contributions by teachers, police, and other public workers of New Jersey and made it possible for tenured teachers with bad evaluations to be fired.
Christie’s opinion may seem harsh for those who are pro-union, but follows the reasons why conservatives tend to be anti-union: the money factor for providing benefits to union workers and the view that teacher unions are creating barriers for a better public education available to students. On the other hand, unions help provide workers benefits like health care that help those with lower-paying public jobs. Unions also help workers protect their provided benefits. so they are not subject to worse conditions like lowering of wages. One may argue that if teachers are happy with their benefits they will be more likely to excel in educating the future generation. On the other hand, one may argue that those with tenure are exploiting the education system and are more likely to not have satisfactory teaching results because they are guaranteed a job while other more enthusiastic younger teachers without tenure are out of work.
I personally believe that unions are good for workers who deserve benefits, but that does not mean unions should have supreme power that allows them to enjoy their benefits while not being overly satisfactory workers. In my opinion tenure that allows teachers or workers the ability to not be fired, does not work. If a younger teacher is actually making a difference in the education system and doing better than an elder teacher, they deserve their job more and should not be punished for being competent. Strikes are a process that is necessary in the battle of state governments and unions and do not always lead to union victory. In the end, a strike can either make or break a union as seen in Chicago and Wisconsin.