Great moments in union representation

Unemployment in North Clackamas, Oregon just went up, thanks to a teachers union that ignored the wishes of its membership.  North Clackamas School District faced a budget crunch and wanted the teachers to agree to a wage freeze in exchange for keeping everyone on staff.  The teachers agreed to it in a vote, but the union refused to go along.  Now the teachers are picketing — the union:

A group of teachers in the North Clackamas School District took the initiative Thursday, amid losing their jobs because of budget cuts, by gathering signatures in an effort to have their voices heard by their union.

The teachers, who gathered outside their union office, said they want a response from the union and put their demands in writing in the form of a petition.

Those speaking out said it shouldn’t have reached this point, and they would have accepted the district’s offer, favoring a wage freeze to save jobs.

“We took a poll in the spring and they got our opinion and the majority said wage freeze,” said Monica Whiteley, who was laid off. “So I would like them to look at the poll or honor it and have us look at the memo of understanding that is out there.”

The cuts could mean having as many as 45 kids in a classroom, designed to hold much less.  The lay-offs came with almost no notice, and the teachers wonder whether they will be able to pay their mortgages.  Yet the union’s response was that they had to consider what was best for the teachers and the children, both of whom come off as losers in this result.  Under what scenario is this better for anyone?  Even the union loses in both the near- and long-term, from loss of dues and from the likely revolt among the rank-and-file members.

This situation holds plenty of irony.  The unions claim that they speak for membership, but clearly in this situation they spoke for some other interests.  Now teachers have to gather signatures on a petition just to get the union to hear their concerns.  Unions supposedly exist to collectively bargain to address worker concerns, and gather petitions to convince workers to allow them to represent the workforce with management.

Sounds like union bosses tried bluffing with other people’s money, and got their bluff called.  North Clackamas teachers now have no real way of holding them accountable or deflecting the course of the negotiations, which is why they went to KATU in the first place.  And if Congress passes Card Check, all of this can be every worker’s nightmare across the US.

Update: Strike three for me today in screwing up names and places.  North Clackamas, not North Carolina, which is on the other side of the country.  I think I’ll keep my laptop shut for a while …