Attacking Teachers’ Unions with Neoliberal Tactics


In LA, a neoliberal coalition involving the ACLU got a court to reduce teachers’ union-negotiated seniority protection, on behalf of poor students.
The Principal Established: “In Social Crises, Unions are Not Compatible with the Public Good”

In “partly” getting rid of seniority, the point is the establishment
of a governance principle: “The public good is diminished by unions’
negotiating power in establishing work conditions (in the form of linking both
compensation and job security with experience).” That principle is
what the neoliberal education reform industry was trying to achieve,
because it lays further ground for the claim that working class
organization (unions) violates civil law, which can be diffused across
American law and education policy.Why seniority is essential to quality jobs, unions and education quality:

Protecting seniority protects workers against being fired when their
union-negotiated wages and benefits begin to compensate for both
training and experience. Without seniority, the compensation won in
negotiations cannot be realized, and this means the union involves a
lot of work without being able to secure any effect. The union becomes nonviable.

Further, education is destabilized.The for-profit motivation for neoliberal education reform tactics:

The commercial interest promoting this antiunion governance principle
is that making working class organization illegal allows private
education firms to offer competitive products to replace public
education. Private education products are competitive insofar as their
profitability (required) to owners, top management and shareholders is
dependent upon 1) Rents: The private firms use education
infrastructure paid for by the public, and 2) Paying teachers
deskilled workers’ poverty wages (perhaps after a seductive
introductory offer good until teachers are no longer unionized).

Inasmuch as this is the motivated interest behind the neoliberal education
reform and privatization campaign, it is not always sufficient to make
the case that this private interest (opposed to unions) represents the public good.

This is why it is important for neoliberals to make the case that the poor
and/or people of color’s interests are also opposed to unions or union
levers.

The neoliberal crisis-exploitation strategy

The justifying context is crisis; conveniently for neoliberals, the poor are always in crisis in capitalism.

A situation in which the state is laying off teachers en masse (and
then
rehiring) and this is disrupting education is one hell of a basis
to claim that the cause of poor childrens’ educational disruption is
the union’s teacher seniority protection. I find the neoliberal actions of the
ACLU lawyers disgusting; but it’s my fault for being naive and romantic about the (Orange County!) ACLU. Orange County goes to show: Neoliberalism is conservatism, often dressed up in multiculturalism.
Consequences of education privatization and deunionization:
Labor market, economic, educational, political and social-psychological

The market discriminates in providing goods and services. (Or, if you think the public education system discriminates against the poor, you aint seen nothin yet…) Those education consumers who have the effective demand (wealth) will (have to) get a much better product in the market than those who do not, and this drop in service quality to the working class will be much larger than with a publicly-provided good or service. That’s why charter schools underperform public schools.

Teachers’ unions are the basis for a middle class in society. When the education market is privatized, individual families and the public pay largely for privatized profits, instead of middle class wages for educated professionals. With privatization and deunionization, profit must be generated out of education (a no- to low-profit sector in the poverty, working class and middle class markets), so you have to rid society of a large sector of middle-wage skilled jobs and replace them with a few highly-compensated upper management jobs and a large sector of low-wage junk jobs.


This deskilling labour market transformation reduces consumer demand and economic growth, and so the tax base is further reduced, even as for-profit education companies must be subsidized by the public in order to profit, and thus drain public resources. So this immediate-cost-saving strategy, deunionization/privatization, has significant and broad long-term economic costs, including state revenue decline that necessitates the  withdrawal of the very voucher system that enabled public education dismantling–leaving nothing but the smoldering shell of the education system, and transferring more superfluous money into the already-overstuffed pockets of the superrich elite. This is a formula for gutting a once-affluent economy.

Deunionization/privatization also produces a mismatch between the cost
of education required for the job (high) and the job compensation
(low), which will on a slight time lag result in more education system
destabilization.

Unions professionalize teachers; and devolving education decision-making power to professional–that is, responsible, judicious, skilled, competent–teachers, in interaction with parents and communities, creates the best, most responsive education decisions and innovation. Without the cultural respect for education and educators that strong unions can promote, education is degraded and devalued, as in Arizona for one example; skills and competencies consequently decline across the region.


With no academic incentive but for efficient junk job training, by and large students and people lose the comparative perspective, leadership and decision-making skills, and other middle class approaches and competencies that education can provide. One of the most profound cultural competencies lost, which only professional, respected, semi-autonomous teachers can deliver on a broad basis, is critical civic competency, including antiracism. The idea of the cross-tribe public good, today used by neoliberals as a tool for promoting private interest, is lost in a high-inequality society.

These are all reasons why, with loss of union density, happiness decreases across society, see this study.

Over 100 years ago, W.E.B. DuBois critiqued the neoliberal approach to educating African-Americans; in that era of “commercial triumphalism,” the neoliberalism was racist. In our era, it’s both racist and classist, as needed. No matter how pragmatically or sentimentally the strategy is marketed, in any era, the goal and effect of neoliberalism is to institutionalize extreme inequality and a high rate of exploitation.


From Chicago is the opposite to the LA deunionization approach.
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