Anti-Fenty Unions

Really? Is this helpful? Aligning yourselves against a popular mayor who’s trying to continue hard reforms in the District by punishing gross incompetence?

When everyone in the city is sick to death of the status quo, defending the status quo is not a good way improve people’s opinion of you.


  1. Cavan says:

    … and they have every right to. Busting unions is not the way to improve things. It’s a way to kill the quality of work done, kill the reliability of the work done, and give the mayor’s office tyrannical powers.

    Don’t believe the right wing garbage about unions being bad. If it weren’t for unions, there would be no weekend and there would be no middle class. The owners of capital would have kept paying the workers barely subsistence wages without anything left over. Don’t argue that we don’t need them anymore because we’re past that. Just look at the past 20 or so years in white collar jobs. We have had a 90% increase in productivity, yet 90% of the monetary gains went to the richest few, not the workers. Think that has anything to do with a lack of unions?

  2. ibc says:

    Busting unions is not the way to improve things.

    And yet, the more the perception grows that there is a choice between this and the status quo, DC *residents* are going to support breaking the back of the union.

    I’m more pro-union than anti-, but I wholly support Rhee/Fenty in doing *whatever* it takes to redeems DCPS. If that means destroying the union, so be it.

    I suspect I’m not alone. And I wonder what percentage of WTU members are DC residents who vote…

  3. Cavan says:

    You can break the unions but what you’ll get in its place will be worse. What kind of self respecting person would work under a system where their boss has that kind of power over them?

    In order to have an effective workforce, you need a stable workforce. The unions go a long way towards ensuring a stable workforce. Without a union, the teaching staff in DCPS would be quite transient. New teachers will sign up because they will see the money that Ms. Rhee is dangling at them. People will then leave to neighboring districts when they arent’ the ones chosen for the big money under the “merit system.” They will then leave to go to where there is a union and they don’t have to put up with as much sh*t. The system will have and even greater proportion of inexperienced teachers and we all know how long the average new teacher lasts in that profession. I think the number, off the top of my head, is that 50% of new teachers leave after 2 years. (disclosure: I taught for two years in a system in MD and then became one of the 50%). So you’re going to be in an even worse situation because the schools will be even more understaffed, and will not have much in the way of experienced staff to teach.

    Power has its tradeoffs. Ms. Rhee can have more power but at the cost of a stable staff.

    Just like when it came to urban freeways and auto dependent environments, the public got that one wrong. Ms. Rhee and Mr. Fenty are appealing to the worst in people to get their way. They are using the teachers for the whipping mule when the problem(s) in DCPS are very complicated and took decades to develop. Anyone can scapegoat someone else. The public does not know enough about education and really does not want to think critically about this at all. They just want blood. The mob psychology is not too different from a witch hunt. It’s sad that so many otherwise smart people are ready to burn the teachers at the stake.

  4. ryan says:

    Cavan, with all due respect, what you’re saying is crazy. Teachers shouldn’t be subject to some kind of accountability? That’s nuts. Rhee’s plans would increase pay for everyone. And many teachers leave DCPS because they’re sick to death of dealing with a union that’s dead set against any reform.

    It’s not right to blame the union for how bad DCPS has gotten. It’s completely right to heap scorn on the union for standing in the way of reform now.

    To disclose fully: my wife is currently a DCPS teacher. And I think it’s shameful that the union is fighting to keep my wife from getting a deserved raise because the system’s oldest teachers are scared of facing a performance review. Indefensible.

  5. ibc says:

    What kind of self respecting person would work under a system where their boss has that kind of power over them?

    I won’t argue with this point (though if I did, I think my answer would be something along the lines of “Pretty much all white collar workers in America today”).

    My specific point was that–putting aside the merits–if the teacher’s union comes across as being obstructive, they are going to lose. That’s just the state of DC in 2008.

    In any case, we’ve seen decades of half-measures, and the teacher’s unions putting themselves before the city’s schoolkids for a half century. There literally is *no* patience left.

    Rather than take the maximalist position yourself (i.e. that the union should drive the policy), perhaps you could tell us your specific beef with the Rhee/Fenty “merit pay” plan?

    Seems to me, most *good* teachers would relish working in an environment that rewards expertise and motivation, and eliminates unmotivated dead-wood. As far as people leaving for neighboring districts when they wash out of the merit system–good riddance.

    We’ll supplement the experienced “super-star” teachers with motivated non-traditional teachers who can rotate in from professional fields or academia. After all, these are the same folks that the best private schools recruit from.

  6. AB says:

    What kind of self respecting person would work under a system where their boss has that kind of power over them?

    Yeah, what’s with those bosses, expecting people to be all productive and shit? If I want to a shitty employee I damn well will be, you ain’t firing me!

  7. Cavan says:

    My beef is with who does the deciding about who’s a SuperStar. There is no accountability for who makes those decisions.

    You want to keep your oldest and most experienced teachers on a staff.

    My beef is with a public that just wants blood and really has no clue (and can’t unless they go into a classroom) what the constraints to success are when you’re in that profession.

    My beef is with a proposal that will look well intentioned but will devolve into a Reign of Terror where no one knows who’s going to get the axe next. You could get the money thrown at you one day by your current principal, but then you get fired the next after your school administration gets completely removed by the central office claiming they are merely “holding everyone accountable”. Whenever a new administration comes in, they want to bring in Their People and blame everyone who was there before and claim that everything was their fault and they need to clean house in order for anything to get done.

    That’s not an environment that fosters an efficient staff. You need to reduce turnover in order to have a more effective and efficient staff. Busting the union will make DCPS have turnover like you’ve never seen before.

  8. Cavan says:

    What I’m saying is not crazy. That’s the reason why teachers in the 20th Century became unionized.

    Teaching is not like some sort of economics model. Liquidity might be good in a financial market, but not on a teaching staff.

    That union is correct for being against this “reform.” Look at their Collective Bargaining Agreement. I suspect that you’ll see that it’s really similar to the contracts in Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties. Yet, no one is trying to rip out the compensation plans in those counties. Prince George’s has gone through plenty of different regimes in their central office in Upper Marlboro yet no one ever tries to do a power grab on their teachers. Montgomery is by most measures a successful system, mostly due to its location in the Favored Quarter (and Favored Quarter adjacent in the east). If you want to try this new plan, wouldn’t this be the place? You’d have that slapped down so quickly up here. The teachers would fight it just the same.

    Ryan, this issue is not about reform. It’s not about economic efficiency. It’s not about doing what’s best for DCPS. It’s a power grab, plain and simple.

    You should look at this situation through the lens of politics, rather than economics.

    The reason why the old-timers are so opposed to this is that they have been around long enough to see enough central office administrators and education fads and gurus come and go to know what this is. They have every right to be self interested and their stance is the right one for the future of DCPS.

  9. ryan says:

    Cavan, are you familiar with the details of this proposal? I think if you see what’s actually on the table, you’ll find that it bears no resemblance to the apocalyptic statements you’re making here.

    And as I said, my wife is a DCPS teacher. Sure, I’m looking at this through an economic lens. I’ve also seen first hand how ridiculous the union’s position here is. It’s insulting to students, to teachers, and to the city.

  10. AB says:

    There is no accountability for who makes those decisions.

    So we need accountability for the administrators, but not for the teachers. Got it.

  11. ibc says:

    It’s a power grab, plain and simple.

    You know, you hear this from defenders of the status quo in DCPS all the time; but somehow the context is always left out. It’s as if they think we’ve just descended from another planet.

    Given a choice of believing that Rhee and Fenty are moustache-twirling villains for the sake of pure villainy; or believing that they actually have the best interests of DC schoolchildren at heart, I think most people are going to believe the latter.

  12. Cavan says:

    well, I suppose the truth could be somewhere in between…

  13. jeff says:


    Do you send your children to DC public schools?

  14. ryan says:

    The Avents do not, as yet, have kids.

  15. monkeyrotica says:

    Well, I’d help you out there, Ryan, but I just got a vasectomy.