Rauner’s campaign turn-around agenda to destroy public employee unions is clear enough.
But his speechifying has gotten more and more incoherent.
And is it me, or has he seemed to have lost some weight lately?
He doesn’t look good.
The other day he was babbling something about Chicago and teachers being dictators.
This was just as 500 Chicago teachers were handed pink-slips.
Dictators firing themselves?
What a lunatic.
In all the years I was a union activist – president of my union local for almost ten years – it never quite felt like I was a dictator.
Like every IEA local leader I was elected. Sometimes with opposition.
LIke most IEA local presidents it was a voluntary position. No pay. A bit of release time.
And God knows what local presidents did before there was email, texting and smart phones to communicate with their members in even a middle-sized local union like mine.
I do remember in my early days of teaching that the kindergarten teacher and union president, Mrs. Burke, would drop off her students in my art room and head straight for the phone booth which was located next to my room.
Yes. A phone booth. No internet. And no classroom had a phone.
She would spend the next 45 minutes doing union business. That was her planning time. She would do her classroom planning after school and at home because the only time she could talk to administrators and other teachers was on her own planning time.
In a phone booth.
Since most locals are voluntary organizations, things don’t always run like a well-oiled machine.
Bruce Rauner may think our dictatorship’s trains run on time.
Trust me. They don’t.
When I first got hired I had to go find my building rep so I could join the union.
Nobody seemed to know who he was.
But he was a volunteer too. So you work with what you have.
We changed that a few years later. We negotiated time for the union at our new teacher orientation. The superintendent agreed to give us the half hour just before lunch on the first day. The membership chair and I would give a little rap about the union and hand out membership slips.
I say “membership chair” as if she had a committee she was chair of.
There was no committee. Like most of our chairs, she was a committee of one.
A dictator, if you will.
The thing about being a union dictator in Illinois is that nobody has to do what you say.
No teacher has to join the union.
Some dictatorship, right?
What our local did was fight for the rights of teachers and against the whims and autocratic leadership styles of many of those who thought they were the educational leaders in our district.
But who rarely ventured into a classroom. Or even had a copy of their contract in their office.
Oh. Here’s some dictatorial advice for some new local union leaders. Always carry a copy of the contract with you when you walk into a principal’s office. Slap it dramatically on the principals desk just before making your point. They’ve never read it. They have no idea what is in it. Make a reference to it. They will have no idea.
I remember many a call to our union staff person who this dictator needed to go through before I could file a grievance.
“Well, Klonsky. That’s kind of a stretch,” he would always say to me after I described what had happened and showed him where it violated the contract.
“I know,” I would respond. “I don’t care if it strictly violates the contract. We may not win it. But they can’t treat teachers that way without us responding. If we win, we win. If we lose, we lose. At least we will show them we have some spine. And our members will know we have their backs.”
The words of a dictator. Who had to argue with a paid union staff person in order to file a grievance.
But the grievance would get filed.
I’m happy to say we never lost one.