Thursday, December 30, 2010

CTA Supports Education Cuts

Parents, teachers, students, brace yourselves for more education cuts. 

Budget Cuts by byronv2
California has already sliced $21 billion from education over the past 3 years. "I can't promise there won't be more cuts, because there will be," said Governor-elect Jerry Brown, speaking recently to a group of educators and union officials. These cuts will be made to try to close a $28 billion state budget deficit, and do not include an additional $2 billion that schools will lose due to declining prop 98 revenues.

“We oppose further cuts,” said Mike Myslinski, a spokesperson for the California Teachers Association, the state’s largest teachers union, representing 325,000 members. 

CTA Opposes Further Cuts? Yeh, right.
CTA has “opposed” all sorts of terrible policies, budgets and legislation in the past, including NCLB, Common Core Standards and Race to the Top (RTTT). They oppose with their words, occasionally with advertisements, and sometimes through newsletters and phone calls to their members, and very rarely through a mass protest in Sacramento, all the while collaborating with law makers to implement these same policies and budgets, albeit, in a form they think will do the least harm.

This is not opposition. It is spectacle. It is part of the expected and acceptable behavior in the game. The ruling elite make their decision and promote it through bogus science, sympathetic pundits and respected community leaders. Opposition groups, especially the unions, cry foul, demand that they back down, perhaps pump some money into the campaigns of opposition politicians, and then walk away when they lose.

Huck/Konopacki Labor Cartoons
The union bureaucrats are far more concerned with appearing “reasonable,” and maintaining a seat at the table, than they are with defending the interests of their members or communities. They start with the same assumptions and biases of the ruling elite, in this case, that the budget deficit must be closed on the backs of children, families and working folks; that the rich should be allowed to pilfer from the rest of us, not only by cutting jobs and paying low wages, but through tax cuts and loopholes that worsen the deficit. They buy into the deception that “We all must tighten our belts,” an Orwellian phrase that actually means “Everyone but the rich must suffer more, so the rich can maintain or increase their wealth.”

Direct Action Gets the Goods
Real opposition requires mass action that causes pain or discomfort to the bosses (corporate or political). The goal is to make life so unbearable for them that they back down and accept our demands. The principle is simple and straight forward, so simple that it is shocking that we don’t do it regularly, like they do in France. Consider that we are in the overwhelming majority. We have all the power, yet we choose not to use it. Even if only 25% of us withhold our labor, the economy would come to a stop, costing the bosses billions of dollars in profits.

Some might argue that the French workers lost; their pensions were cut despite their walk-out. This is true, they did lose a battle. However, the fact that they were able to get so many workers and students out into the streets so quickly, for so long, and despite the efforts of their union bosses to quash their action, sent a powerful message to the ruling elite and to their union bosses that they are organized and willing and able to take action whenever they feel it is necessary. This reduces the chances that the bosses will try again soon to impose further austerity measures.

Certainly strikes and other forms of direct action are risky and difficult. By undertaking such action, we risk losing income or even our jobs. We risk arrest and occasionally even being assaulted or jailed. The way to minimize these risks is to have strong unity or solidarity: everyone needs to take part. This may seem unlikely for some workplaces where workers are scared or have identified with the boss’ needs and objectives. The solution to this is to be very organized. Those who understand and accept the need to be organized must meet with colleagues one on one, get to know them well, learn to understand their fears and concerns, not just about job actions, but about the job, in general. Commiserate with them. Build trust. Help them get small needs met. Be a friend and an advocate. Eventually, it will be safe to start agitating, to move from commiserating about grievances toward discussions about fighting the grievances.

For teachers, nurses and others in the “caring” fields, walking off the job may feel like a callous and unacceptable abandonment of our clientele. Yet not doing so means allowing our working conditions to be further degraded, with the consequence of deteriorating services for our clientele. They lose either way, so why not take the risk and fight for better conditions that benefit us and them? Indeed, many teachers unions have taken this stance in past, striking often during contract negotiations, to ensure a fair contract that benefited teachers and students.

Real Opposition Requires a General Strike
If the CTA really opposes further education cuts, they need to massively invest time and resources into organizing their members and building solidarity with other unions, all in preparation for mass, on-going job actions throughout the state. These actions could be work stoppages, work to rule, sit down strikes, or other forms of direct action, but to be effective they must cause the system to shut down for an extended period of time.

The network for this has already been created, with dozens of other education organizations paving the way last year (see list below). March 2011 has been declared National Month of Actions to Defend Public Education, and would be an appropriate time to take such actions (assuming we had already been organizing for it).
·         Support Public Schools

Unfortunately, because the organizing has not been done, what we will most likely see is more safe and sanctioned (and fruitless) mass protests, like k-12 teachers spending a half-day in front of the capital waving picket signs (with the support of their administrators) and college students protesting peacefully at CSU and UC campuses, along with a few isolated examples of angry college students occupying campus buildings and lighting barricades on fire.

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