Across the state teachers have voted to strike at the beginning of the school year to force higher wage increases. At this point the question of whether the pay increases sought are reasonable or not is secondary to the issue of the ongoing and ever increasing willingness a majority of the teachers to openly flaunt the law to achieve their ends. The question becomes, does the end justify the means?
The teachers have decided it does. And they have said so with the same arrogance and pride of any other brand of righteous ideologues who, because of their perception that there will be no penalty for their unlawful actions, they can do as they will to get what they want.
Indeed in 2015 Washington state-funded the Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies at the University of Washington (UW) co-sponsored a panel celebrating two recent strikes by public school teachers in Seattle and Pasco. Maxford Nelson, writing about the event for the Freedom Foundation in December 2015 noted that the event was described on the Bridges Center’s event page, as written by UW political science professor George Lovell who moderated the panel, as follows:
“In September at the beginning of the school year teachers in both Seattle and Pasco, WA won two big strikes. Despite court injunctions and negative press, both strikes were successful. Their wins were not just wins for teachers, or workers, or unions, but for public education in Washington State. Seattle and Pasco teachers have shown they are on the front lines fighting against market based reforms in our school. (sic) Come to this panel discussion to hear the voices of Pasco and Seattle teachers as they reflect on the strike and look to the future.”
As Nelson correctly noted in his article, “According to Lovell’s worldview, strikes are an end unto themselves, regardless of their legality or effects on students and families.”
Speaking at the celebration Greg Olson, President of the Pasco Association of Educators (PAE) had this to say about the relative impunity with which they violated the law:
“We went out for nine days. Very tough nine days. And we had a court injunction right off the bat, the very first day. We ended up getting fined $5,600, which was a lot of money. And this is the first time, I believe. Most times when you get these fines, the court gives it back to you when they’re done. Once you settle and you get everything done they say, ‘OK we’ll just forget it and go.’ This judge, for some reason, did not do that. So we ended up paying $5,600. We did not get it back. But I think it was a good $5,600 for us. What was nice was that it was a union bill, it wasn’t an individual bill.”
Really? They embarrass a local judge by arrogantly ignoring the court order for nine days and cannot understand why the judge would not say, “Aw, shucks, kids, let’s just forget about it”. Still, the $5600 was not as Olson whined, a lot of money. It was just a token by which the judge hoped to vindicate the courts power to demand its orders be followed. As related to the deep pockets of the WEA and the NEA, the state and national organizations lending support to the striking local affiliates, the amount amounted to nothing. In another view of the terrible fine, $5600 is less than the annual property tax levied on my home–over half of which goes to fund public education. Perhaps the taxpayers should be the ones going on strike. (Though we should not expect to enjoy the same impunity from the law which the teachers have grown to expect.)
At the same event, Sarah Arvey, President of Seattle Education Association (SEA) delivered pats on all their backs for, “leading by example”. As this excerpt of her largely incoherent comments shows:
“I see the most significant gain as the message that we’re sending to students. My number one most important, kind of, moment or thoughts around the strike are: We’re leading by example. So we’re showing students that, you know, we—at school, they deserve a certain type of education and we deserve certain, you know, as teachers, we have certain workers’ rights that need to be, um, what’s the word I’m looking for? I don’t know. Don’t worry, I’m a language arts teacher. It’s totally my thing. But, you know, we deserve to have our rights and students deserve to have their rights…”
Teaching students that anarchy works and that contempt for the law is morally acceptable and to be socially applauded, something to be proud of, as long as it gets you what you think you deserve. Indeed, such a valuable message they are sending to those in their tutelage.
The teachers now voting to strike in district after district not only in Clark County but across the state is precisely the “future” those celebrating their unlawful activities in 2015 were looking forward to. The question now, for the law abiding members of our communities, is: What if anything can we do about it?
At the moment we can do very little in the way of direct action to stop the strikes, and even less toward holding the teachers and their unions directly accountable for their contempt of the law and the chaos they are willing to cause on the first and following days of the school year.
But little does not mean complete inaction.
We can put pressure on the school boards to immediately obtain injunctions from the courts. The pressure can be in the form of emails, calls, and even picketing at the schools to express popular outrage at what is becoming institutionalization of anarchist behavior by public employees. We can take our protests to the news media, talk radio and every other outlet at our disposal. This we should be doing now and not cease until the law is obeyed by those we hire to teach our children.
Next, we can demand through all the usual avenues of petitioning for resolution of our grievances that the legislature fix the state statutes which, while declaring that public unions have no right to strike—fails to provide a penalty for doing so. We must demand that they put teeth into the law.
And, we can by Citizen’s Initiative to the Legislature put the required teeth into the law ourselves. This will not be either easy or cheap. But neither is the continued tolerance of the teachers and their unions considering themselves to be unaccountable to the law. Moreover such tolerance of contempt for the laws is not healthy to a society dependent on the rule of law for longterm stability.
We live in a Constitution Republic. It is time to teach the teachers what that means.
[The compete article referenced above written by Maxford Nelson, Director of Labor Relations at Freedom Foundation, can be found with this link: https://www.freedomfoundation.com/labor/taxpayer-funded-uw-panel-celebrates-illegal-teacher-strikes/ Mr. Nelson also provided me with additional background information on the subject to give me a fuller appreciation of both the history, and likely the future use, by the WEA and local teachers union of unlawful strikes to hold the schools and the students hostage to their demands]