It looks like the Supreme Court may beat Friedrichs to the punchline (Friedrichs v California Teachers Association) in essentially gutting union membership and turning our entire nation into a right-to-work (for less) nation. As the middle class shrinks, the working poor (what an ironic moniker) grows, and the ability for the average American to sustain their quality of life diminishes, the corporate barons still feel their billions threatened enough to kill, kill, and overkill any semblance of labor organizations. I already fear from my profession. The chilling effect of corporate “R”eform policies on academic freedom and on teacher collaboration has been downright detrimental.
David Chura, a teacher author, queried in his Huffington Post article “Why Teachers Are Afraid” that, “In such an atmosphere of distrust, powerlessness, and alienation from what should be a culture of collegiality and collaboration, what choices do teachers have but to hunker down and try to survive? After all, these days, teacher evaluations have become just as high stakes as student testing.” And now the policy makers are going even one step further–erase the representation that these teachers have, and they have no choice to mutely do just what they are told with constant fear for their jobs.
Teacher satisfaction with their jobs is at the abysmally low 39%–down nearly 30 points in six years. For an intrinsically rewarding job, the fact that so many flee the profession and so few are now joining it should be ringing the alarm bells about how unpalatable policymakers, “R”eformers, and top-down administrators have made the profession. And while prestige, support, and investment in my profession is only one of many unionized professions, teachers unions have been a sort of linchpin in the labor movement. When teachers and other public employees are stripped of professional protections, then the profession itself changes entirely–and not necessarily for the better.
As economic inequality continues to thrive in national conversation, we see the Supreme Court overturning and setting precedence protecting the wealthiest among us and stripping the commoners of their voices. One only needs to see the negative impact of the SCOTUS Citizen’s United decision to understand that corporations can far outspend (by a margin of 15:1), and therefore, have exponentially more sway over the political process than unions and individuals. Yet, that does not stop them from filing lawsuits or placing ballot initiatives before the public, then using their dark money resources for media buys and paid canvassers. Now that the High Court essentially says corporations are people, corporations have the upper hand over their employees’ unions that they outspend dramatically. And now they say in McCutcheon v FEC that money equals speech. These two rulings have exacerbated the divide between the haves and the have-nots to the point that the organizations that protect the have-nots have been neutered. But they don’t want neutered. They want dead. And unfortunately, they just might get it in Chief Justice Roberts’ activist court.