Friday, February 18, 2011

Hosni Mubarak Is Alive and Well and...

Today is Friday, 18 February 2011.

… living in Wisconsin and Idaho.

In Wisconsin, the Republican governor and Republican-dominated state legislature are doing their damnedest to destroy the collective bargaining rights of state employees.

After all, if working six days a week for low wages was good enough for the Foundering Fathers, it’s good enough for us.

The Idaho State Board of Education has suspended the Faculty Senate at Idaho State University, as part of an attack on faculty self-governance and, ultimately, tenure.

No word on if the world is flat.

Addendum: Be certain to read the comment by "rtr", detailing the consequences of the destruction of collective bargaining rights.

And keep in mind, as implied above: most of what is today taken for granted in the workplace (the 40-hour week, employer-assisted health insurance, etc.) was not the gracious grant of kindly employers. These were victories won against the power of employers and the State, victories won by the sweat and blood of workers who organized and forced the right to bargain collectively upon reluctant exploiters.


Anonymous rtr said...

Lest any of your readers jump to a conclusion that your remarks about the six day week (a generous gilded age employer indeed) are over the top, consider the following.

The revision to collective bargaining in the Wisconsin budget repair bill would remove hours and days of work as a subject of bargaining.

Presently, the number of teacher contract days is set through a combination of WI Department of Public Instruction regulations (specifying a floor of instructional time for students at all grade levels) and upward modifications at a locally controlled upward modification from that floor amount of instructional time that is achieved through collective bargaining over "wages, hours and conditions of employment.

Theoretically, any local school board could increase the number of instructional days to include year-round instruction, even if the students might remain on a 180 day schedule without increasing compensation in an annual amount greater than the annual increase to CPI. (Bargaining over wages would be constrained to a MAXIMUM annual increase equivalent to the annual CPI.)

Why would a district choose to do this? Districts could close building reducing overhead costs and reduce staff by 25%-33% without increasing class sizes. Districts may not wish to do this but is state education funding were to be slashed by 15%-25%, they would be obliged to take Draconian measures. Enlightened and/or wealthy Districts could extend student school years to 11 or 12 months without incurring additional staff wage costs as a step toward purportedly improving the competetive advantage of their students through increasing instructional time upwards of 20%. It is pure conservative magic. More services with less taxes to interfere with the upper crust pursuit of unbridled greed.

This is on top of WI teachers (avg. wage of roughly $60K based on average of 13+ yrs in the profession with a Master's degree) being immediately diminished by an average net $7.5 K off the top as the result of statutorily mandated contributions to teacher benefits (add'l employee obligation through statutory fiat for Health Insurance and Pension - wiping out collectively bargained compromises in compensation over the past 5 decades).

For instructional aides, the situation is dire. Average compensation in WI for an instructional aide is roughly $14K annually. If they maintain a health insurance benefit through the employer (taking the burden off Federal and State medicaid programs), they will be seeing a reduction to their net income of roughly $5K annually.

This so-called crisis is entirely artificial. Gov. Walker inherited a $59 million budget surplus from the former Democratic governor. Within days of taking office, Governor Walker granted tax concessions to businesses that contributed to his campaign to the tune of roughly $160 million.

The conservative lie is transparently evident. I thought that what passes for conservative common wisdom was that the lower the tax burden, the greater the tax revenue stream due to increased private wealth investment in the economy.

Godspeed to all my brothers and sisters in Wisconsin. I'm there in spirit and perhaps soon, in person.

1:54 PM  
Anonymous rtr said...

I was a little over-hasty with my response and there may be a few gaps in the logic that additional explanation might address.

Closing School Buildings:
If students maintain a 9 month school year (180 days give or take), then students may be rotated through a 9 month (3/4 of a calendar year) in three of the four calendar year quarters. By staggering the beginning of the 9 month school year for 4 cohorts of student classes, a District would be able to increase the number of students using the building over a 12 month period by 33% while maintaining the number of students present in the building at the same level as the current 9 month three season attendance (with the building sitting more or less idle in the summer) levels. Similarly, if teachers in this type of arrangement teach the full year, the amount of teacher instruction time would be increased by 33%. On a time per widget analysis, this would be a pretty dramatic increase in teacher productivity while producing a significant cut to capital operating costs.

Yet another free lunch that public employees would fund by bearing the entire tax burden for the increased productivity.

Reminds me of the story of the fox fur farmer who would raise foxes by feeding them the carcasses of their bretheren that were skinned for their furs. Something for nothing (a feat not duplicated since the "Big Bang").

3:38 PM  
Anonymous rtr said...

On Tenure -

This is one of the greatest red herrings in the public debate about education. Tenure is nothing more than providing an employee due process before terminating employment.

Due Process generally means that the employer had "cause" to discharge the employee. "Cause" may be considered the opposite of "Just Because."

Cause is generally of one (or more) of the following three types: 1) Misconduct, 2) Incompetence, and 3) The employer has insufficient work to provide or the employer lacks the resources to maintain his/her employment.

Without getting too far into arbitral or legal weeds, "cause" is demonstrated when:

The employee has done something wrong, and
The employee knew, or should have known that s/he did somethng wrong, and
The employer provided the employee with an opportunity to explain his/her conduct prior to being disciplined, and
The punishment fit the offense.

In the absence of an employer's explicit statement to the contrary, there is a legal presumption in almost every US state that EVERY EMPLOYEE who has successfully passed through a probationary employment period, whether publicly or privately employed, has a right to due process when facing dismissal or discharge.

For most workers, that period is 3 months to perhaps as much as a year. For public school teachers, that period is normally three years or longer and University tenure track instructors may teach for ten or more years before being granted a tenure right (if at all).

(Note that the 14th Amendment is the Due Process amendment related to persons in the United States right to be treated equally under law). It is no philosophical stretch to assert that denial of employment due process rights to targeted professions is a stand in support of lord v. serf (or worse) relationships in the workplace.

Is that really in the best interest of public education to treat teachers with less equal treatment than what would be required in a fast food restaurant employer/employee relationship?

5:56 PM  

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