The Teachers’ Unions Are On The Ropes

They were marching in Madison. And they’ll be on a street in a state capitol near you in the coming weeks and months. The teachers’ unions are on the ropes, and they know it. They know that public opinion has shifted, and the public mood has shifted with it. And they know why.

The people now know all about the racket the teachers’ unions and other public employee unions have been running for the past twenty years. The public now knows that it is a bad idea to have union representatives and the politicians they elect sitting at a table negotiating pensions and health care benefits. Because there is no one at that table representing them. There is no one representing the taxpayer.

All of this started in New Jersey, of all places. Millions of residents started watching Governor Chris Christie challenge the teachers’ union on You Tube last year. Christie was armed with facts, figures and arguments the mainstream media never saw fit to report, and the union bosses he challenged had no real answers.

It was real news to the residents of New Jersey, how the teachers’ unions had rigged the system. Because for decades, the story went untold by the Newark Star Ledger and Bergen Record, the state’s two largest dailies. The editors either didn’t think the corrupt collective bargaining process was an issue worthy of a series, or didn’t have a problem with the process. I suspect that many of the editors liked being for what their ideological opponents were against. Because both of those papers are liberal by any objective standard, and those that challenged the teachers’ unions tended to be Republicans.

In the past, politicians who dared to challenge union power were portrayed by the unions and their supporters as the bad guys. As being against the children. As being against education. And the future.

Those days are over.

It ain’t easy being a Middle East dictator these days. Or a union boss. Or a newspaper editor or TV news producer.

But there is much more at stake than collective bargaining in this fight. The teachers unions themselves are on the ropes, as more Americans start to ask hard questions about how we spend our money educating our children. As we start to ask hard questions about tenure, about the hiring and firing of teachers, about merit pay, about charter schools, and about online learning.

The teachers’ unions are scurrying to protect their power, and are engaging in defensive maneuvers to protect their power. Because that has been the reality of public education for the last 30 years – the unions have been calling the shots on public education, while “We the People” paid the bills.

A New York Times headline on Thursday is Exhibit A of just how scared the unions are: “Leader of Teachers’ Union Urges Dismissal Overhaul.” Here is how that story began:

Responding to criticism that tenure gives even poor teachers a job for life, Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, announced a plan Thursday to overhaul how teachers are evaluated and dismissed. It would give tenured teachers who are rated unsatisfactory by their principals a maximum of one school year to improve. If they did not, they could be fired within 100 days.

You heard it right. The union boss admitted that tenure is a bad idea. That giving a person a lifetime job after only 3 years of work is a really, really bad idea. But this admission is 30 years too late. The unions want to continue to control the education system, but they will lose this battle. Because it doesn’t make any sense to have the teachers’ unions in control of hiring and firing teachers. Any more than it makes sense to have inmates running parole hearings.

In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal last year, Joel Klein, New York City’s Superintendent of Schools for the past 8 years, wrote an editorial that eviscerated the unions. After chronicling some of the innovations he spearheaded, he wrote this about entrenched union power.

“Changing the system wasn’t easy. The people with the loudest and best-funded voices are committed to maintaining a status quo that protects their needs even if it doesn’t work for children. They want to keep their jobs by preserving a guaranteed customer base (a fixed number of students), regardless of performance. We have to rid the system of this self-serving approach.”

The teachers’ unions are on the ropes. Thanks to a nearly three decade rule over how we run our schools, and how we choose and reward our nation’s teachers, their power is being successfully challenged by politicians who have the truth on their side. And the interests of the tax payers. And the children

Sadly for the union bosses, there is not much they can do about it.

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Military are bums

We need more unions in this country and not less. I’m sick of all the lies and BS about how union workers are lazy. Some of the laziest people out there are in non-union jobs..Just look at our military. All they do is sit on the collective fat asses all day and draw a paycheck from Uncle Sam for pushing papers and acting like they are important. They receive free medicare, education, housing for doing nothing. Just welfare in a uniform. Can’t get any lazier than that.


I am a retired teacher in Texas, a right to work state, where teacher’s salaries are not negotiated by unions. After 26 years of service, my final salary for a 187 day contract was $56,000. I consider that a very nice salary for a second income. In my area, it would be difficult for a family of 4 or more to live on that amount without a second paycheck. Many districts in rural areas pay much less. Salaries pretty much reflect the cost of living in the area where one works. And in Texas, teachers’ jobs are just as affected by the economy as any other job. When the economy sinks, we get the pink slips too. Anyone who has never taught should probably not be making comments about the schedule of a teacher. Most teachers work seven days a week to keep up with the administrative duties, instructional technology,… Read more »

W Guertin

I am a conservative from Massachusetts and a Christian. The rants I hear from the misguided bloggers on your site regarding unions is stunning. Let’s not forget corporate greed and in many cases the revolving door of personnel turnovers and why unions offer security and representation. I belong to the Professional Firefighters of Massachusetts and the International Association of Firefighters. The safety rules and regulations are what we fought for and bargained for. State Laws or Corporations just didn’t decide it would be nice to give them to us. I was interested in your services as opposed to AARP until I read about your lumping of all unionism into the same pot. And, by the way we contribute to our plan and don’t get full social security, no matter how many years we worked in the private sector. The anti-union ranters are quite ridiculous in their conclusions. If you don’t… Read more »


SOME THOUGHTS ON TEACHER SALARY NEGOTIATIONS With teacher salary negotiations annually adding to the financial hardships facing the Elmhurst schools, here are some thoughts for the Board of Education: (1) Concern for Dollars Raised for the Education Fund: There is a great concern that when the Education Fund of a school district is increased, the teachers’ union will immediately compute the amount of increased revenue generated and then ask for twice this amount in the negotiation process. Although union negotiators will continually insist that their concerns are for classroom needs, when it comes to a final settlement, it is always the amount of salary increase that settles negotiations. (2) The Myth of the Underpaid Teacher: The average citizen has no idea how much teachers make because the teachers’ union has done an excellent job of perpetuating the myth that teachers are underpaid. While this may be true in many other… Read more »


I’ve voted for every educational tax increase for the past 40 years in my community–always at a sacrifice to my standard of living. Recently, the local teachers’ union was asked to forego the 3rd year small increase to help solve the high school’s budget problem. The response: “We can’t make this sacrifice.” Guess who won’t be voting for any more education tax increases.


As a Shop Steward and Area Strike Director years ago, I saw the inside operation of Unions. They served our middle class well for many years. Then the tried to destroy this country. They sent our jobs across the border. The corrupted the Education system. There are three generations of teachers in my family and each one has integrity and excellence in their careers…inspite of the union…not because of them!


I was seriously considering joining ya’ll until I read this Union bashing article.
Since you are just another right wing group. I’ll just pass….
You Union bashers need to remember where your 40 hour work week, healthcare benefits, retirement plans and Worker Safety programs come from. Every system has its flaws but the Unions are not your enemy. The Politicians have tried to make it so.


I have seen what these unions represent commies, & far left loons.If thats what teachers want to represent them i feel sorry for them.I was a union member for 48 years and i never seen the unions this bad.I would never want any of these commie unions i see today represent me.Teachers of Wisconsin will do better without them.

Appraiser Jim nPA

Thank you Governors for the hard work your doing. It’s about time things are changing before these union guys break the bank.
I was part of a union for 10 yrs in the private sector. I saw and knew first hand the corruption. I stepped out of the union into the company side after see so many unfair practices all for the dollar, all for the power over someone else.
This year at Christmas someone mentioned the Govenors name at the table. My sister in-law and brother in-law, both teachers in NJ almost had their veins pump out of their necks & foreheads with pure hatred & disdane.
Keep up the good work Gov. The liberals have to stop running the show here.
Thank You

JB, Sr

If you own it, nobody has anything to say about it – –
If it’s provided for you by others – you have nothing to say about it ! ! ! !


Don’t you see they’re pitting us against each other while robbing us blind? This is class warfare. They lead you into thinking the problems are with unions-of course there are problems with unions, but the real problem is with the governors, the banksters, the ceo’s who shutter 55,000 factories in the U.S. and move overseas, hire foreign workers at 20-30c an hour, create minimum 10-15% unemployment here in the U.S., get paid outrageous salaries and bonuses, get $700 billion in interest free loans, give nothing back to our country, and then blame the ones they have laid off for these problems!

Before you start calling me names, just think about what I just wrote. Just for a minute. Let it sink in. Now I ask you, can you concoct a better scheme than this?

Adam F. Kohler

Thank you Governor Christie for leading the charge and change! Thank you Governor Walker for continuing the charge in WI.


I agree that there are bad teachers in public school systems, but they are not in the majority and there are ways to relieve mediocre teachers from their tenured positions. The problem with that is that administrators do NOT want to bother with the required observations and documentation required to dismiss these teachers. On the other hand, the majority of the teachers who are employed to TEACH your children is that they are not only required to LEAVE NO CHILD BEHIND, but that we HAVE to deal with the poor, welfare aided children, children with defects, violent students, children who are the unfortunate product of broken marriages, single parent, or no parent homes, foster children who have been forgotten, children of special needs, children who have no food, very little clothing, no jackets, oftentimes, no shelter, no place to go home to that they stay on campus until dark and… Read more »


You all sound crazy. Like you’ve been drinking the Kool-aid too long….


Looks like Superman has finally shown up in the guise of Gov.Chris Christie. Well done Gov.!


I would like to say thank you to all the Govenors like Walker that are doing at a state level what we needs to be done on a federal level. Cutting back at waste, balancing budgets, creating jobs. They are proving that it can be done and with countinued state successes the citizens of this country have the proof they need to force the Federal Government to do the same. November 2012 should prove to be very interesting indeed.

Terri J

I very strongly agree with kjerry– Education vouchers would introduce free enterprize to education and allow the consumers (parents) to choose where to spend their money. Schools that provide quality education in a safe environment would naturally attract more students. Parents would be able to vote with their vouchers and poor teachers/school systems would simply not be in demand. The biggest opponents of school vouchers are the teacher’s unions and that should be a dead giveaway! There are a multitude of social problems that contribute to disfunction in the classroom, from illegal immigration, poverty and the welfare mentality to lazy, uninspiring teachers who also have a welfare mentality (feeling like they deserve a paycheck without producing anything) but it seems to me that any time we raise the bar and eliminate rewards for laziness and mediocrity, quality will rise. Given the opportunity, I believe that most parents would choose to… Read more »

Caroline P.

This is all true, however, and with respect, I do not agree parents are to blame: sure there are parents out there that do not care, that’s always been the case, but a vast majority (at least where I come from) care temendously ….the question is,
how do we get heard? What do we do to make this wrong right…..if
for nothing else, the sake of our

Mary Anne Bernhard

I might add that what is really wrong with our education system is that parents aren’t parenting. They expect teachers to raise their children and teach them right from wrong. Yes – we do have some exceptional familes/parents, but as a whole, it has been parents who aren’t doing their job at home. Education is the key to success and it takes FAMILIES and teachers together to raise a healthy, well-adjusted, academically strong student.

Mary Anne Bernhard

We don’t have Unions in Texas ! The teachers in our state contribute to their pensions and there is no free ride. We work diligently and fully support our students. Remember when you are criticizing groups and running off at the mouth ….you can’t use the word ALL ……Texas Teacher and proud of it !