Republicans Against Teachers’ Unions? Quite Hypocritical.

Recently, I had a conversation with a self-proclaimed conservative Republican about teachers’ unions and his stance against them. His overarching idea against these unions was he didn’t want his money (tax dollars) funding organizations that countered his political beliefs. His argument wasn’t completely against unions as a concept, just in cases of the publicly funded ones, e.g. teachers’ unions. He also made cases about how individuals should “stand on their own merit” when it came to wages and promotions; about how workplace safety was now protected under OSHA and therefore unions were now obsolete.

This is all, of course, complete balderdash filled with hypocrisy and conservative rhetoric.  Let me explain how deep this rabbit-hole fallacy goes.

The idea that we cannot use tax dollars if they fund organizations that stand against one’s personal political beliefs is purely superficial at best. If we take this argument to its logical end, there would be no tax dollars collected at all, for anything! It wouldn’t be too hard to find tax-payers against almost every policy in the book for whatever their personal reasoning. Just because it’s against one’s political ideology doesn’t change the reason we collect taxes in the first place – to “promote the general welfare”.  I could make a similarly absurd argument for the need of an army in defense of the country, but then stand against my tax dollars funding the purchase of bullets.

Additionally, if he is pro-public funding of education, then what he is really saying is, “I want to tell the employees of publically funded organizations how to spend their money” and “because I pay their salaries, those employees cannot collectively bargain.” All this because teachers’ unions generally support democratic ideas and candidates. Would he also suggest these employees not be able to individually contribute to any liberal causes? Certainly not.  There was a sense of irony when I mentioned the fact that police departments are publically funded and unionized but support his conservative Republican ideologies. Yet, he didn’t seem to have any qualms about this. Hypocrisy? Yea, I think so too.

Furthermore, what about privately owned Charter schools? They get plenty of tax-breaks (aka tax dollars); and what about the charter schools that take “vouchers”? What then? Are these employees forbidden from collectively bargaining for better working conditions? What about tax-exempt political orgainizations like Karl Rove's Crossroads or the Koch brothers' Cato Institute? They surely don't deserve any of my taxes!

“Employees standing on their own merit”, is great in theory, bad in practice. We’re all human. For good, and bad and in this case, bad. How many times have you heard the story of a friend or relative who was passed over for a promotion or raise in favor of someone else? This is where unions excel.  Unions lay a foundation of rules that apply to everyone -- equally. So, it doesn’t matter that your co-worker is life-long pals with your boss. It doesn’t matter that your other co-worker is a very talented ass-kisser. Unions set up procedures and rules for promotions, disciplinary actions, harassment, benefits and more. If you ever worked for a larger corporation, you certainly know 'ass-kissing' benefits and ‘close-friend’ promotions happen all the time. Have you ever tried to complain about your boss in an un-unionized corporation? It rarely works out for the complaining employee. More often than not, the complaint doesn’t go without retribution. Going to human resources for these matters is like seeing a corporate doctor for a job related injury. Unions provide a layer of equality.

“So, if we have OSHA, why do we need unions?” It’s simple. Unions are about more than just Safety and Health regulations. Ever been in a job where you are being targeted or singled out? Who do you tell? As, explained above, internally run HR departments are a complete joke for these matters. Human Resources are simply for new hires and benefit questions. Anything else, you might as well just say it directly to your boss and hope to keep your job.

Also, OSHA doesn’t lobby for new regulations in response to emerging health risks. Science rapidly provides companies with new chemicals and new methods to do a job. Jobs are changing. Materials are changing. OSHA didn’t have the authority to regulate the use of asbestos, until the AFL-CIO lobbied to limit exposure to it back in the early 70s. Unions have taken the primary role of lobbying government for new work safety regulations, it is OSHA's job to investigate violations and enforce them once they are in place, not to implement or lobby for new regulations. Unions and OSHA are two separate roles of a larger process.

Finally, I think my conservative counterpart forgets one simple fact: We are a union of states, called the United States of America where we strive ‘to form a more perfect UNION!'

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