EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Columns

September 16, 2012

Column: Children left out of teachers’ battle in Chicago

Children? What children? There’s money at stake here, not to mention political power. The children can wait. Their parents can find something else for them to do.

The Chicago Teachers Union, which was out on strike for a fifth day as this was written, has its priorities, after all – it is now the self-anointed point of the spear in the grand and glorious struggle for “downtrodden” working people – and those priorities have nothing to do with what is best for students.

Oh, the kids get mentioned in passing every now and then, to lay a guilt trip on anyone who resists their insatiable demands, but this is all about adults who are among the most self-absorbed in the nation. It is all about their hurt feelings, their wallets that are never fat enough and the preservation of job security provisions that make it impossible to fire anyone who isn’t a convicted child predator.

They insist they are victims of ruthless political leaders who are little better than the robber barons of previous generations.

Which is a bit ironic, since the ruthless leader in this case is not a “fascist” Republican like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, but Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, former chief of staff to President Obama, both Democrats who owe their electoral success to the backing of big labor.

Obama, needing to maintain the pretense that he is not labor’s poodle, is relatively silent on the conflict. And the union’s plan, knowing that the alternative to Obama would be worse for them, is to give him a pass.

But nobody else gets a pass. “You have a situation where the teachers feel totally and completely disrespected,’’ said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, the parent union of the CTU.

Which would make any objective observer wonder if she is visiting from another planet. To borrow a phrase from former President Bill Clinton, “it takes a lot of brass” for the teachers unions to play the victim. The CTU, and public unions everywhere, get vastly more respect than the hard-pressed taxpayers who get stuck with the bill for the lavish salaries, work rules, pensions and other benefits in union contracts.

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