|Huck/Konopacki Labor Cartoons|
The Minnesota Senate has approved a two-year salary freeze for teachers in public and charter schools, supposedly to avert mass layoffs. The bill also prohibits any school employee from striking over the freeze. More to the point, the bill undermines teachers’ right to collectively negotiate their contract directly with their districts.
While many teachers unions across the country are voluntarily accepting pay freezes, and while this is terrible for teachers, at least they are making this decision collectively, with the support of their members and not having it shoved down their throats by the state. It is a dangerous precedent for the state to impose compensation or working condition on workers as it violates the entire basis for collective bargaining and opens the door to greater violations of teachers’ rights. For example, if the state can override teachers’ contracts on salary, why couldn’t it take away the right to strike (as the Illinois legislature attempted to do), or abolish seniority rights or tenure? This could be seen as one step toward completely crushing the unions.
A similar attack on collective bargaining recently occurred in LAUSD, with the support of the ACLU and more of the same are likely as a slimy backdoor way to weaken unions. If they can’t outright abolish them, they can chip away until there is nothing of value left. Of course, if the unions don’t fight back with all they’ve got, then perhaps the value has already been sapped out.