February 19, 2011

Just a Thought from a Free Thinking Teacher

In the middle of this heated debate over pension, benefits and workers' rights* there is something buried within this bill that will be largely ignored. That is my choice to be a dues paying union member. I teach because I want to. I appreciate my salary and benefits tremendously. Collective bargaining, workplace safety, job security, and the like are not rights nor is me holding my job. It is part of the freedom this great country was founded on. I chose to be a teacher; it was not afforded to me as part of American dream. If I do well at my job I should get compensated justly. If I do poorly I should be relieved of that privilege. I have no right to teach.

I worked in the private sector as I was earning my degree in education. During those 4+ years I sat at a desk and processed shipping documents, I received no raises and held no benefits. At no time in that part of my life did I feel entitled to more. Sure I wish I had more money and some good benefits, but that would mean I would have to find a job that might have been less conducive to my school schedule. Somehow I survived that time without a union to fight for me.

Why can't I have a choice to be in this union? I know I can opt out on paper, but they still abscond the money meant for my family. That's not part of the attack they claim to be fighting against? Why do unions get to take my money and spend it at their discretion? Why am I compelled fund those who are protesting in Madison? If this is about rights and choices, where is my choice to spend that money I earned as I wish? Nearly $1,000 a year is taken from me without my say. It's not for taxes or social security, it goes to pay for people who claim to have my best interests at heart. I don't remember asking for that component of the grand teaching experience.

I respect my colleagues and if they choose to participate in the union way, so be it. However, the unsung elephant in the mass of clashing humanity in Madison is my right to decide if I want that union to be part of my teaching career. Go ahead and protest and fight for your so called rights*. At the same time please let me have mine to make my own choice as a college educated risk-taking adult. I'm a teacher, not a union token with which to bargain.

* - Read The Jungle by Upton Sinclair if you want to learn about what workers rights actually means.

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