Tomorrow in Madison

by Harry on February 21, 2011

The Madison teachers just voted to stay out at least one more day, so more fun at the Capitol tomorrow. My kids are ecstatic. If you can be there, you’re more than welcome.



Timothy Scriven 02.21.11 at 1:07 am

Goodluck my friends.


James D Miller 02.21.11 at 1:14 am

This seems like a politically inept move given that Republicans are going to claim that the unions don’t care about the children. Plus there will be working parents who now have to scramble to find daycare for their kids.


SEK 02.21.11 at 1:30 am

Isn’t tomorrow President’s Day, and wouldn’t they have it off anyway?


SEK 02.21.11 at 2:32 am

(And I’m not asking that sarcastically: I don’t have to go campus tomorrow because mine’s closed, and I just assume everyone else’s is too.)


christian_h 02.21.11 at 3:48 am

Good for them to resist pressure from union “leaders” to return to the job. In the end, (as inspiring as they are don’t get me wrong) won’t do the job. Only all-out strike action can bring victory.


Margaret 02.21.11 at 3:25 pm

Schools are closed for Presidents’ Day.


SamChevre 02.21.11 at 3:49 pm

I’m just curious–what’s the legal status of teachers in Wisconsin. Is this a legal strike? (The voting makes me think it is, but in most states teachers can’t strike during a contract.)


CP 02.21.11 at 4:27 pm

The teachers in Madison have been calling in sick en masse at the urging of the union, which amounts in practice to a strike but is technically not one. To strike outright would jeopardize union treasury and teacher jobs, both. It is a strike in all but name, and for good reason in all but name.


sk 02.21.11 at 4:34 pm

its not a legal strike. That is why doctors are passing out forged sick passes at the rallies-to give the teachers cover to use sick leave. In other words, its not a ‘strike’ at all. Its a sick-out.

Remember: we will never be free until teachers can earn $100,000 a year (unlike most of us who pay the taxes to pay for that $100,000 a year), and pay virtually nothing for their health care and pensions (unlike most of us, who pay the taxes to pay for their health care and pensions).

Seriously, Harry. Those elementary, junior high, and high school teachers (on a 10 month contract) probably make more than you do, with, I am assuming, a PhD. And I would warrant that they have a better health and pension plan than you do. And, unless your kids go into medicine, or make it big in business, they make more than your kids will, almost regardless of your kids’ career choices. That’s what you are all agitating for?



Brett Bellmore 02.22.11 at 1:26 am

You know, I’m quite certain that if I took an unauthorized vacation, and turned in a fraudulent medical excuse to explain it, I’d be fired. Care to explain why these teachers should be treated any better?


vivian 02.22.11 at 3:06 am

Digby points us here:
Statements of support and solidarity from Egypt.
News from the UK is “the end of Bevan’s healthcare for all?” and from the US, the bright spot is Madison. Thinking of you.


geo 02.22.11 at 4:16 am

For Christ’s sake, Brett, if you took the illegality of the Wisconsin teachers’ sickout and put it next to the continuing illegality of the chronic non-enforcement of labor laws by the NLRB over the last several decades, it would be the size of a pea next to a planet. Can’t you bring yourself to get as indignant about the colossal injustice inflicted on unorganized, relatively powerless American workers over many years as you are about a gesture of defiance by teachers (probably supported by an overwhelming majority of their students) against a high-handed and double-talking state government?


christian_h 02.22.11 at 4:40 am

Yes Brett, let’s fire all the teachers in Madison. Maybe you’ll volunteer to teach 48 hours a day until they can hire replacements. You see, this is what we call solidarity. The bosses are quaking in their boots before it for a reason.


Harry 02.22.11 at 4:59 am

Brett, I don’t know of any teachers who actually took those notes. I think we should wait and see who those doctors were. Every teacher involved knows well that they may face disciplinary action, and the situation is far from clear. Most teachers I know did not, in fact, call in sick — in fact several spent a great deal of time these past few days working anyway (my favourite story is of a teacher who went to work Wednesday, didn’t sign in and therefore won’t be paid, and may face disciplinary action, and worked a 10 hour day for free preparing a major event for Thursday which was canceled at the end of her workday — and then spent another hour canceling it).

SK — look at the teachers’ salary schedule. Compare the 3rd year with the salary of a first year lawyer, and look at the long term career prospects. Its all public information, as is my salary. My wife has two Masters degrees, works much more time than I do, and with her skill set could earn in the private sector 3 times what she does — round about my income. She has never in 15 years taken a penny of health insurance, unlike some of her colleagues whose spouses make more money than I do, running businesses in which they do not pay for anyone’s health insurance, including their own. In a relatively high-paying district. I hope none of my kids earns much more than a teacher, because I hope that all of them want to do work that is socially valuable (and thus, usually, ill-paid). They are all three enjoying tremendous unearned privilege, and my daughter over the past few days has given me a behavioural indication that she understands this viscerally and not just intellectually.


Harry 02.22.11 at 5:03 am

Sam — the legal status of this is entirely unclear, because there is no precedent. The MMSD superintendent sought an injunction to require them to go back, and it was not granted. It is not a sick out (hasn’t been since Wednesday), and not a strike. Certainly in the UK what they are doing would be strictly and clearly illegal, but that’s not where we live. Some teachers will almost certainly face disciplinary repercussions, though the response to this of the one school board member I talk to regularly suggests that MMSD teachers will have the board’s support if, indeed,they go back tomorrow. I doubt they’ll get paid, and I’m guessing that much or most of the time will be made up through extra days and extra hours of instruction.


CP 02.22.11 at 7:49 am

Harry, you say it is not a strike, but they are holding mass meetings and counting heads as to whether people want to go back to work or not. It’s not a formally declared strike, perhaps, but it is a voluntary withdrawal of labor, collectively organized. What you say about how teachers are actually performing their duties while existentially refusing to sign in is fascinating and noble, but it still seems a strike to me, in essence.

But more power to them. While contracts are meant to prevent strikes, in this instance collective bargaining is threatened mortally, lending a moral legitimacy to striking despite a contract being in place.

By the way, teachers like almost everyone else (certainly professionals or those with union contracts) have a routine allocation of sick leave. Few of us make it across a career without taking a few days off with illness as an excuse. Since these days are built into the contract I see it being pretty hard to discipline these teachers since the burden of proof will be on the district to prove them not to have been sick.


Brett Bellmore 02.22.11 at 12:38 pm

The only difference between what’s going on now, and a regular strike, is that a regular strike is honest. And, yeah, most people in the private sector are well aware that, in the teachers’ place, they’d be fired. That’s not creating a lot of sympathy for the teachers.


Harry 02.22.11 at 12:51 pm

I don’t really see what’s dishonest: there’s no pretending going on. I didn’t like the sick-out idea much, but that was one day, and since then it has been a straightforward work-stoppage.

Yes, if I were in the private sector I’d wish I had a union too. But I thought that in America, when people saw people better off than them it raised their aspirations. And I’ll tell you, this has roused private sector workers in this state who have never thought about their union to get active. And, Brett, you might remember (and some of the Rep senators are nervous about this) that lots of private sector workers, as well as entrepreneurs, depend on public sector spouses for their health insurance.


bob mcmanus 02.22.11 at 1:09 pm

“To estimate, then, the significance of the idea of the general strike, all the methods of discussion which are current among politicians, sociologists, or people with pretensions to political science, must be abandoned. Every-thing which its opponents endeavour to establish may be conceded to them, without reducing in any way the value of the theory which they think they have refuted. The question whether the general strike is a partial reality, or only a product of popular imagination, is of little importance. All that it is necessary to know is, whether the general strike contains everything that the Socialist doctrine expects of the revolutionary proletariat.” …Georges Sorel

“It is not, of course, a question of the merging of the trade-union organisation in the party, but of the restoration of the unity of social democracy and the trade-unions which corresponds to the actual relation between the labour movement as a whole and its partial trade-union expression. Such a revolution will inevitably call forth a vigorous opposition from a part of the trade-union leadership. But it is high time for the working masses of social democracy to learn how to express their capacity for decision and action, and therewith to demonstrate their ripeness for that time of great struggles and great tasks in which they, the masses, will be the actual chorus and the directing bodies will merely act the “speaking parts,” that is, will only be the interpreters of the will of the masses.” …Rosa Luxemburg


Cryptic ned 02.22.11 at 1:16 pm

The only difference between what’s going on now, and a regular strike, is that a regular strike is honest illegal.


Walt 02.22.11 at 2:56 pm

Do you work in a call center for minimum wage, Brett? You like to tout your high pay and skills here. If you and your coworkers all “called in sick” over some management grievance, it’s just as likely your manager would be fired as you would.


Brett Bellmore 02.22.11 at 6:04 pm

“that lots of private sector workers, as well as entrepreneurs, depend on public sector spouses for their health insurance.”

In no small measure because providing that public sector health insurance costs enough to burden the private sector to the point where things like health insurance can’t be afforded.


CP 02.22.11 at 6:13 pm

Brett apparently has missed the last thirty years of labor history, when it became virtually impossible to win an openly waged strike in America. If the right to strike were still intact, one could expect people to follow straight lines, but given that it’s not you do what you have to do. The meaning of the events are plain to all.


chris 02.22.11 at 7:33 pm

@22: It’s not such a burden to the private-sector businesses who administer the health care to public-sector workers. Or to the people who fix those people’s cars, mow their lawns, etc.

Tax money doesn’t just vanish off the face of the earth, you know (and even if it did, money isn’t wealth in the first place). The primary effect of this cost is to *make people healthier*.

In any case, the private sector absolutely can afford to provide health insurance to its workers. It just chooses not to because that is more profitable when the workers lack the bargaining power to demand otherwise. Putting the screws on the American worker is not a matter of necessity; it is a matter of opportunity. (More precisely, for a corporation, there’s no difference. Any profit you can make, you must make, or be replaced by someone less scrupulous who will do it anyway. Corporations are not just profit-making machines, they are racing-to-the-bottom machines.)

Look at it another way — what if private-sector employers had no choice but to provide health insurance to their workers? They would do so and costs would go up. So that everyone would pay slightly more for consumer products, but have health care — surely a worthwhile tradeoff. An iPad, however cheap, is useless to a corpse, or even just someone with untreated macular degeneration.

But one business can’t unilaterally provide health care and raise prices without losing competitively — only the government, or unionization or serious tightness of the relevant labor sector, can overcome the collective action problem. (Henry Ford is not a good counterexample; although he may have meant well, his policy was more high-minded than cost-effective, and only his first-mover advantage temporarily allowed him to get away with it.)

That’s why it’s generally pointless to blame an individual corporation; the system that pits corporations against each other for the prize for getting the most productivity out of workers while paying them the least is the problem.

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