In their heyday, unions represented 36 percent of the American workforce.
How things have changed.
Now, that number stands at only 12 percent, and when you factor out the public-sector unions, the number plummets to a paltry 7 percent.
While unions were formed for good reasons — to combat deplorable working conditions and slave labor wages — shortsighted union leaders have made a habit of biting the hand that feeds them. Ironically, the biggest casualty to organized labor’s greed are the rank-and-file members, as evidenced by the numbers above.
It is precisely for this reason that union leaders are the driving force behind card check legislation, which would eliminate the secret ballot in union elections. While admitting to themselves that this is an inherently un-American tactic, labor leaders see card check as the only viable way to preserve the union movement.
Funny, but something else much more simplistic comes to mind that would achieve the same objective — without violating a member’s right to secretly cast a vote.
But for that, there is one prerequisite: you have to live in this world.
Not upper Uranus.
So for a classic case study of how space cadets operate, let’s take a look at the ongoing legalized extortion occurring in the Neshaminy School District.
The teachers union in that Bucks County district has been at odds with the school board for months. Why?
Because they want a "fair" contract.
Pretty much everyone else on this planet calls it greed. Unadulterated greed.
What are they asking from the taxpayers? Salary increases, retroactive to 2008, of 2.75 percent in each of the first two years, 3 percent in the third and fourth years, and 3.5 percent in the final year.
So a teacher making $100,000 a year now will be taking home a guaranteed $116,000 salary for nine months’ work in 2013. What a deal!
And there are quite a few teachers at or near that level: 64 make over $100,000, and over half make over $90,000, not including health care benefits.
But hey, times are tough, so the union leadership has another demand, one from which it won’t budge: continued free health care.
That’s right. Neshaminy teachers do not pay a single penny towards their health care premiums.
Nothing. Nada. Zip.
How’s that for living in the real world?
Instead, the forgotten taxpayer foots the bill for their high-end plan, to the tune of around $27,000 per teacher, per year.
And it doesn’t stop there.
The taxpayers’ largesse also extends to Neshaminy’s retired teachers, many with lucrative pensions (some over $100,000 per year) who also enjoy free healthcare.
But in the private sector — that forgotten place which employs the people who pay for all the teachers’ salaries and benefits — pay raises in today’s economy are the exception, and employees typically shoulder at least 30 percent of their healthcare costs.
Not content with the negotiations, however, the teachers showed their "class" by repeatedly boycotting Back to School Nights. In addition, their classrooms aren’t decorated, bulletin boards remain vacant, recommendation letters are on hold — and reports have stated that the contract dispute has been discussed in the classrooms, which is the very last place it belongs.
But hey, the union’s demands have nothing to do with greed, we are nauseatingly told. No, no…. it’s all about the children!
Sure it is.
And pigs can fly.
* * *
Speaking of the airborne Neshaminy union leaders, let’s discuss the real issue. You know, the one that everyone — parents, teachers and union officials — pretend isn’t there.
Our educational product is failing.
All across Pennsylvania, and yes, in Neshaminy, too.
The beauty of math is that numbers don’t lie. And Neshaminy’s numbers are dismal.
Only 67 percent of the district’s 11th graders are proficient in reading. In math, it’s 72 percent.
So let’s tell it like it is: one-third of Neshaminy’s students can’t read proficiently and almost the same number can’t add or subtract.
And the real number is even higher, since students who have already dropped out of school — a significant number — aren’t counted.
Yet the taxpayers are pumping out $17,000 per student, per year. And the results?
Getting a 67 on a test is an F. In the real world, being content with a 67% success rate is unacceptable.
* * *
Several weeks ago, Governor Rendell celebrated the news that 82 percent of our schools met basic benchmark levels.
And that’s reason to celebrate? Maybe for Venezuela, but not the United States of America.
Since when did we aspire to be average? To be simply… mediocre?
Worst of all, to actually be happy with that? That’s not how we put a man on the moon, nor was it how we became the most powerful and prosperous nation in the world.
Shame on the Governor for setting such a poor example, which should come as no surprise.
He’s always been in bed with the teachers’ unions.
We lead the nation in school strikes almost every year, are near the top in teacher salary and benefits, but are perpetually close to the bottom in literacy, graduation rates, SAT scores, and students going on to college.
What Rendell and the unions’ leadership haven’t yet realized is that we’re no longer competing against Bubba Cletus who at 19 is getting out of 7th grade. We’re not even competing against San Francisco and Seattle anymore, but Sydney and Singapore.
Compared to their counterparts in the world’s 30 richest countries, American students are, at best, right in the middle, but more often than not, closer to the bottom.
Average was never good enough, but in an ever-increasing global economy where today’s best students are tomorrow’s world leaders, America is dangerously close to getting blown off the field.
Responsibility for improving education rests with everyone: parents, students and teachers. And make no mistake. There are thousands of dedicated teachers who go the extra mile, making lifelong impressions on our children — our future — in a way few others can. There is no way you can ever put a price tag on truly good teachers and adequately compensate them for the service they perform.
And the good ones understand this. They went into the profession for far more than money.
Unfortunately, these treasures are represented by a union whose actions run contrary to the true mission of the teaching profession. And whether the voices of the good ones are drowned out by the masses, or intimidation rules the day, the end result is disastrous — like Neshaminy.
So cheers to the Neshaminy School Board for not relenting to selfish union leaders who care nothing about the students, and all about grabbing as many tax-payer dollars as possible.
But a few sobering words of caution are in order:
FACT: Throwing more money at the problem has never worked, and never will.
FACT: Higher teacher salaries do not translate into better results.
FACT: Until true accountability is realized — through school choice — the downward trend will only continue, accelerating America’s decline.
Bottom line: unless we make the effort to fix the real problems, we might as well start learning to speak Chinese.
Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, www.FreindlyFireZone.com. Readers of his column, "Freindly Fire," hail from six continents, thirty countries and all
fifty states. His work has been referenced in numerous publications including The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, foreign newspapers, and in Dick Morris’ recent bestseller "Catastrophe." Freind also serves as a weekly guest commentator on the Philadelphia-area talk radio show, Political Talk (WCHE 1520), and makes numerous other television and radio appearances, most notably on FOX 29. He can be reached at [email protected].