Why unions matter: An essay

Sunday, March 20, 2011 at 10:05pm
Joon Powell for The City Paper 

Here’s the thing: I believe in unions. I’m not supposed to say that for a number of good reasons. But I think I might be over that now, being free to say the following. 

The anti-union legislation now making its way toward passage in our state legislature is not only mean-spirited and unnecessary, but it’s the worst kind of shallow, cynical politics that this shallow, cynical country can produce. 

Many of you disagree, but it’s quite clear to me that unions in general, and teachers’ unions in particular, are merely a convenient and nearly defenseless scapegoat for a group of politicians that is amoral. This is a group with the power to make decisions that can adversely affect the lives of millions of people, yet it considers more how those decisions affect its own members — or rather its members’ re-election campaigns — to either maintain or increase their power and its attendants. 

That is politics, yes. But it’s also a decent clinical description of a sociopath. 

I do not for one second believe that Republicans in the state legislature believe their rhetoric about teachers’ unions. In saying that I’m being generous to them, because if they did believe it, they’d be as gullible and incapable of critical thinking as they present themselves to be. Consider that for a second now, and then again after you finish reading how virtually every bit of factual information in this “debate” over unions has been distorted by officeholders currently waging a political war. 

I’m a reporter. I can’t even say any of the above aloud under normal circumstances, let alone write it for publication, but there it is. I’d offer my letter of resignation, but I’m a freelancer, and I can’t resign from my non-job. 

I’m also from Michigan, and that means I grew up believing that the labor movement is either directly or indirectly responsible for many good things, not just greed, graft, corruption, political manipulation, and the widescale theft of billions from public treasuries. Among them: the 40-hour work week; workplace safety regulations; whistleblower protection; some measure of dignity for people who work for a living; and more or less creating the American middle class. But then again, I was brainwashed. I’m sure if I were from Tennessee, I would know that Davy Crockett did most of that. 

The last and best reason for me to believe in unions is that my wife, Jenny, who is by far the breadwinner in our home — somehow managing to outshine the $7,159 I pulled in last year by a factor of, let’s say, a lot — is herself a Metro Nashville Public Schools teacher, and thus, the current target of choice for the state GOP’s campaign of folksy divisiveness and arbitrary, albeit maybe focus-grouped, derision. (Or at least she’s one of a select few that includes women, non-Christians — especially Muslims and to a slightly lesser degree seculars — poor people, sick people, children unless they’re not born yet, the whole LGBT spectrum, all immigrants except the ones from business-y countries, and anyone uncomfortable with the idea of being armed all of the time. I think that covers the big ones.) 

Jenny is also the Metro Nashville Education Association’s union rep for Cameron Middle School. She’s why I recuse myself from labor-issue stories, or for that matter school-issue stories, almost every time I’m asked. Strangely, then, she’s the reason I’m writing about them now. 

State Rep. Debra Maggart introduced HB 130/SB 113 — which will abolish teacher unions’ collective bargaining rights, rendering the Tennessee Education Association and its locals like the MNEA essentially useless — at the beginning of this session. Soon after, the legislature began considering bills that would remove TEA representation on the pension board, make it illegal for public employee unions to collect payroll dues, and ban union contributions to political candidates — even though there’s been little talk of bans for similar member-advocacy organizations like, say, chambers of commerce. And let us not forget Rep. Glen Casada’s bill that would allow for unlimited corporate donations to Tennessee political campaigns. 

A loss of bargaining rights will leave Jenny with nothing between her and lower wages, a reasonable pension and health care contribution, and undoubtedly, wide-scale layoffs at some point.Nothing, that is, save some good luck that a bad budget year and some uninformed political whim won’t conspire against her again. 

A couple weeks ago, right around when Gov. Bill Haslam’s tenure reform plan passed the Senate — despite the fact that the entire idea depends upon new tenure-making criteria that have yet to be announced, meaning we don’t even have a plan for making it work well — Jenny came home from work, ate dinner and opened a bottle of beer. 

“You have no idea what it’s like to get in the car, every day, to and from work, and listen to people in the news trashing your profession,” Jenny said. 

Then she broke down. It was maybe 8:30 p.m., less than an hour after she’d gotten home from a day that had begun before 7 a.m. 

Jenny had been, for a few days at least, on a sort of high from the March 5 TEA rally at the Capitol, which brought thousands of teachers from around the state and country. Now it looked as though it would be little more than a morale-booster for those members, who’d understandably grown frustrated. Jenny already makes less than half of what some of her college classmates earn. Even if she sticks around for 20 years, that disparity would remain. 

And by law, her union can’t even go on strike. 

But the underlying theme of her breakdown wasn’t really a fear of losing collective bargaining. It was more that she thought she was doing a good thing becoming a teacher, and she thought other people generally agreed. She loves her job, of course, but it can be very difficult. There are 60-, 70-hour weeks with no overtime pay. She spends all of her alleged free time at work sitting in pointless but mandatory meetings or talking to parents on the phone or helping her kids with one thing or another, which is why most days she sprints to the bathroom when she comes home from work — during the school day, she’s not afforded the minute or two it takes to go to the bathroom. 

Then, night after night, she sits at our dinner table, sometimes for hours, doing even more work. Counting that, she makes about $10 per hour by my calculations. Not counting it, a whopping $13, which wouldn’t be too bad if not for the aforementioned college degree. 

For all of that, Jenny gets to listen to Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey call her mediocre. 

Jenny’s very basic problem, as I took it, was that she stopped believing that people were grateful to teachers, and beyond that were mindful of their interests, or at the very least weren’t particularly interested in demoralizing and terrorizing them more than what’s normal. That isn’t saying that she didn’t know, intellectually, that there were a lot of anti-teacher politicians, even a lot of moral human beings who must have been the ones who voted for them. 

But something shifted that night, and on a gut level she got that she was the momentary It, the thing that would be railroaded and marginalized for the sake of some ultimately low-rent gain, another bad deal made by our state government. In this case, it was easier school board negotiations — for the school boards — and another few years of guaranteed travel per diems and black-tie fundraising dinners for the most vitriolic members of the legislature. More importantly, though, she got that a lot of humans were buying into this, and so now there wasn’t much anyone could do. 

That all caused a kind of existential crisis chain reaction in the house that ended with me and my work. So when I got an opportunity to abandon some rather prudent rules I’d set up for myself based on years of journalistic obedience, I didn’t hesitate. 


Phony popular myths about unions, in particular teachers’ unions, are driving a lot of this furor. Particularly glaring among these are the frequent and bewildering accusations of teacher greed. In a few short years, it seems we’ve gone from making sad jokes about how little money teachers make to suddenly accusing them of making too much. I’ve seen people throw around figures like $60,000 or $80,000 a year. It’s odd — and it’s largely false, at least in this state. 

Take a look at the Metro Nashville Public Schools pay schedule. MNPS teachers, college graduates all, start at about $34,000 a year. That’s not so monumental a piece of news as their salary caps, which are $66,000 — a salary about on par with the current U.S. median family income — only after 25 years of experience and a doctorate. Name another career that requires a Ph.D. and 25 years’ experience for that amount of money. I’ll start: Poet. That’s all I can think of. 

To compare, according to a February analysis by The New York Times, the average salary of a Tennessee private sector worker with a college degree is $55,000. Since, according to U.S. Census data, less than 8 percent of the population over 25 years old in Tennessee has attained more than a bachelor’s degree, that figure can be read as a measure of B.A. and B.S. degree income. In Memphis City schools, it takes 15 years for a teacher with a bachelor’s to earn that much. In Nashville, the top salary for teachers with a bachelor’s degree is $51,370. 

Then, of course, there are pensions — subject of much false accusation by those on the political right. 

First, there is what teachers actually receive in yearly pension payments. Luckily the Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System has a pension calculator on its website. So I pretended that I was 65 years old, a 30-year veteran teacher whose salary maxed out at $50,000 (this more or less represents the average teacher retiree, according to TCRS financial reports). Unlike my employing government, for which contributions fluctuate depending on need, I’ve been paying my legally required share of 5 percent gross income — $2,500 average in my highest paid years — regardless of whether TCRS has had a good or bad year. This entitles me to $1,968 per month, or $23,616 per year — not a lot considering how little I’ve likely been able to save on my salary. 

Governments, on the other hand, were paying less than 4 percent of their total covered payroll for teacher retirements until 2005, when it increased to 5.5 percent. It’s up to 6.42 percent now, still less than half of government contributions for state employee and higher education pensions, both more than 13 percent. 

Political rhetoric would also lead you to believe that the state pension fund — the TCRS, which manages pensions for nearly all public school teachers in the state — is bankrupting us. But the numbers don’t bear that out. 

TCRS is among the highest-performing pension funds in the country. According to its annual financial statement, TCRS outperformed 83 percent of similar funds nationwide last year, netting a return of more than 10 percent. This followed two straight years of multibillion-dollar losses, but even that kind of helps my point: Our consistently well-rated pension fund, which is an investment instrument, took some losses on the market. While those losses, and consequently the higher contributions, are unfortunate, it’s an expense that the state has committed itself to, and the state has an obligation to it. I doubt that our fiscally responsible GOP leadership can argue with that sentiment. 

The state’s pension contributions have increased from $200 million in 2001 to upwards of $600 million in 2008, before decreasing somewhat in 2009 and 2010, to $578 million. Adding $258 million in local government contributions to that, the total was $836 million from governments versus $250 million from member contributions. 

But take a closer look. The state contribution refers to total public dollars going into funding the State Employees, Teachers, and Higher Education Employees Pension Plan, which manages the plan for employees of the state itself, public colleges and universities, and nearly every public school teacher with a pension plan statewide. That funding doesn’t all originate from state tax dollars. For teacher pensions, the state-managed money comes from the local school districts that employ them. 

According to a Metro Comprehensive Financial report, last year MNPS spent $21,246,078 on its TCRS contribution, 3.3 percent of its overall budget. And since the MNPS budget is ultimately folded into the overall Metro government budget, this represents only 1.4 percent of the pot. 

Metro will spend more this year — $25 million — as part of an incentives package for Omni’s planned convention center hotel. Speaking of which, Metro could be on the hook for up to $40 million per year in payments on the Music City Center debt, more than $600 million in bond issues, not including interest, that use Metro property tax revenues as collateral. A feasibility study by HVS Consulting predicted that Metro’s debt payments would likely be covered by hotel tax revenue increases resulting from new convention center business. It’s probably worth noting that HVS’ analysis predicts a 127 percent increase in convention center-generated hotel room nights by 2017 and uses a rather high figure of $144.62 (2009 dollars) as its per-person hotel room night cost. 

If you divide the $578 million the state spent on pensions last year by 76,000 — the number of people currently receiving those pensions — you come out with $7,510 per state-worker pension. About half — 38,117 — of those pension recipients are retired teachers, meaning state government pays out an average of $3,755 per teacher.This isn’t even fair, though, because it fails to take into account the fact that government contributions to teacher pensions — again, at 6.42 percent last year — cost so much less than other pensions. 

Last year, the Tennessee Department of Correction paid more than $75 million to fund three prisons — Hardeman County Correctional Facility, Whiteville Correctional Facility and South Central Correctional Facility — run by Diamond Level Campaign Patron the Corrections Corporation of America. Those three prisons reported a combined population of 5,143 prisoners, at a cost of $14,700 per. 

To review: That’s $14,700 per medium-security inmate going to a (locally owned!) company that has been sued in each of the 19 states where it operates prisons, and is currently being sued for allegations that guards at its Idaho Correctional Center were running a gladiator school for inmates. But the great moral-fiscal — note that this conflation of morality and fiscality is not the author’s own — danger is the $3,755 per person that governments pay out to help keep 38,000 old teachers alive. 

These anti-teacher and anti-union bills will produce, at best, little savings for school districts and the state, but the effect on workers could be devastating. 

See, for example, last year’s decision by MNPS to privatize its custodial services, an idea floated by Superintendent Jesse Register, who did the same thing when he worked in Chattanooga. The contractor, GCA Services, let go of nearly every MNPS janitor and reduced wages for those jobs significantly, despite Register’s promises to the contrary on both counts. Also, GCA is known for having hired criminals and sex offenders into schools it contracted for in other cities, an interesting choice for MNPS given that it nearly drained its legal liability account last year losing big-ticket lawsuits. All of that for about $5 million in savings — $5 million that was added to the district’s charter school funding request this year. There are, of course, no teachers’ unions at charter schools.

Of course, every time Tennessee governments, state and local, hand public money over to private business interests, it’s framed as an innovative public-private partnership, not misspent tax dollars. Haslam certainly knows that from his time in Knoxville. 

Over the past decade, Knoxville public dollars — in the form of land acquisition, tax abatement and development zone grants (which are really intended for revitalization efforts in very poor neighborhoods) — have gone into a new home for the E.W. Scripps-owned daily newspaper the Knoxville News Sentinel, which the city claims created or retained 543 jobs. Fifty of those were eliminated a few years later, and all suffered significant cuts to benefits and salaries. 

That was in 2002, before Haslam. Not to be outdone, the former mayor’s administration smoothed out property acquisition for Scripps Networks’ new Knoxville headquarters. Then there’s his marquee project, the South Waterfront, a condo-developer free-for-all that the city has spent millions on and dedicated millions more in incentives to since it was unveiled in 2006. Nothing’s really happened yet, though, other than Knoxville being sued by one of the waterfront’s lead developers. 


I can also get very annoyed with unions in this state. As a group, and most especially the TEA and its locals, they can be quite timid, unwilling to participate in the public debate until the very last moment — when it’s too late, like it might already be now. They seem allergic to press relations, which when public perception is such a big problem, is quite stupid. 

I don’t think they made enough of the fact that the collective bargaining bill was drafted by the Tennessee School Boards Association, the very people with whom the union negotiates — which is, to me, a glaring conflict of interest. I don’t think they’ve made enough of the fact that this is all about political patronage: Republicans don’t get money from unions and Democrats do. Bill Ketron himself has admitted that’s what is really driving these anti-union bills. 

This should be insulting to Tennessee taxpayers and voters, who are not here to watch public officials take a pre-existing, half-formed prejudice and then attempt to legitimize the myths supporting that prejudice. It is, of course, all the better if the prejudice is against a group with limited power, like unions, which are weak in Tennessee already. 

Even better for Ramsey, Ketron and the gang might be unions with a lot of women in them. You’ll notice how much harder this national debate has been on the teachers’ unions as opposed to firefighter or police unions, for instance. It’s hard not to think that there’s an element of, “Well, it’s mostly
secondary incomes anyway. Their husbands will take care of ’em” to all of this. 

They do this and call it populism. It’s not. It’s a mob mentality masquerading as populism. 

If we are indeed capable of wisdom and perspective, we might be able to wonder whether that’s not a new thing, whether this country’s seen its kind before. And if we’re brutally honest, we might acknowledge that history rarely looks kindly on it — and that history is, at moments like this, ultimately divided into the Right and Wrong sides. 

The Wrong side has always been composed of living people who likely don’t realize, in the moment, that their actions and beliefs would one day be judged as bankrupt. At one time you could have asked some of them, ordinary mortal humans like Joe McCarthy or George Wallace, how it feels to have your life worked over like that, your ordinary mortal human actions retold over and over again as the bad guy part in a morality play for so many consecutive years. It would have to be a kind of living hell, made all the worse by the fact that it was the hell nearly everyone thought they deserved.  

98 Comments on this post:

By: richgoose on 3/21/11 at 4:36

If I wanted someone to write an essay on bias by anger I would certainly get in touch with Charles Maldonado.

In this case his first bias was to ignore the very basis for which unions as a whole are under attack in this country. His battle cry was the same as every other middle class citizen. "Don't take my toys." "Take someone elses toys"

The good times are over,Charles not just for teacher unions but for everyone in this country who does not have special skills for sale.

By: Loner on 3/21/11 at 4:39

One long whine?

By: spooky24 on 3/21/11 at 5:20

It's an excellent article that shows the plight of teachers, and more importantly, the things they consider important. Well done!

With over 30 grammar errors in the first 20 paragraphs it is clear the teachers unions have priories that have little to do with teaching.

The level of errors is 6th grade.

moral human beings who
should be
moral humans beings which

But the underlying theme

should be

However, the underlying theme.

I'm sure this article gave everyone a good idea how important unions are to teachers.


By: tpaine on 3/21/11 at 5:34

On principle, there should be no public workers union. Who's taking the side of the taxpayer? The Democrat who just got elected with union money and manpower? Pardon me while I laugh out loud.
While I'm all for electing, as one union leader candidly said, "your boss." In the real world, it doesn't work like that.
Instead of simply educating our children, in the author's own words, publc unons have turned into hornets nests of "greed, graft, corruption, political manipulation, and the widescale theft of billions from public treasuries." To that, thanks to the Wisconsin state teachers union, we can add the trashing of a state capital. "We, the people" simply can't afford this behavior particularly given the "results" of double the money over the last decade.
I do not consider 1/3 of our chldren in government schools reading at the "proficient" level and one-half the black children dropping out of high school before they graduate, any type of "success" but a tragic failure.

By: HenryB on 3/21/11 at 6:00

A well-written and heartfelt piece. While public unions may need some tweaking, throwing the baby out with the bathwater is a stupid and mean-spirited move. I just wish Republicans for once would stand up for the middle class rather than fighting for undeserved tax breaks for the rich and famous. Of course, that will never happen. I understand why the rich vote Republican, but I just don't understand why anyone else would. Those folks are just witless pawns in the GOP wheel.

By: gdiafante on 3/21/11 at 6:30

"With over 30 grammar errors in the first 20 paragraphs it is clear the teachers unions have priories that have little to do with teaching."

It should have been "With over thirty grammatical errors in the first twenty paragraphs, it is clear the teachers union has priorities that have little do do with teaching."

Let me guess...a former teacher? lol

By: Moonglow1 on 3/21/11 at 6:41

Moonglow1: excellent article. As less than 8% of people in Tennessee have a bachelor's degree I understand why the Republicans can successfully argue against unions. The people of this state cannot see how the Republicans are standing hand in hand with corporate interests. Corporations employ expensive lobbyists to represent them and to draft legislation to further their interests. So the middle class has unions. We need them to represent us. By the way, Charter Schools is code for union busting. All of you trampled masses fight these monied interests. Stand up for what is moral & good. And yes we spend more money for private prisons than on education. These companies that run the prisons are worth 2 billion dollars. And YOUR tax money pays them. I guess you don't care. If you did you would not be busting unions.

By: imdyinhere on 3/21/11 at 7:06

Great essay, thanks for sharing it.

By: i.am.a.taxpayer on 3/21/11 at 7:09

Although I am not particularly a fan of unions, it is absurd to try to outlaw them. The combination of lobbyists who promote corporate greed and the legislators (some of whom are ill-informed and many who are also self-serving) has resulted in some of the worst proposed legislation in Tennessee history. While the legislation may not sound as stupid as the road kill legislation, it is more detrimental to the people who elected and pay the salries of those same elected officials.

By: Moonglow1 on 3/21/11 at 7:11

Moonglow1: the previous comments concerning grammar are meant to deflect from the message. Corporate interests are advancing at your expense. Do you really think that the Republican Tea Party crazies actually care about the middle class. Yea right!! Teachers are rolling in money like the guy in office who owns Pilot.

By: gdiafante on 3/21/11 at 7:15

Moonglow, union busting works on two parts...first, it removes a substantial monetary base from the opposition party, and it weakens the middle class. I'm beginning to believe that the tea baggers want a class war.

By: judyboodo@yahoo.com on 3/21/11 at 7:31

Charles, Jenny's real mistake was marrying a near-do well such as yourself. If she or you for that matter want more money for the better things in life then you had better get into another line of real job not the non-job that you currently have. Jenny should have known she wasn't going to get rich when she got her degree in secondary education. All of the above is pretty obvious to most everybody but the real solution to your angst maybe for you and she to just move back to Michigan and reap what the labor union movement has created for you while the last vestiges of it are still visible. Sounds like a fitting solution to your problem to me.

By: Community-carl-... on 3/21/11 at 7:37

I am growing more and more disillusuined and disturbed with American culture in general.....far to many people are so busy focusing on individual rights, political correctness, etc. at the great detriment and expense of our society as a whole. No great society can be all things to all people all the time and remain viable.

In recent decades, both union and corporate greed have resulted in massive outsourcing of manufacturing jobs resulting in the huge unemployment rate and trade deficit the US currently struggles with.

Politicians keep dangling the promise of continued/increased entitlements in front of certain disadvantaged citizens in order to win elections, stay in power, and personally benefit. The federal deficit continues to climb.

The end result of all this greed is a rapidly disappearing middle class, which has always been the financial backbone of American society. If something doesn't change very soon, the US is going to spiral into moral and financial chaos, and very possibly end up fallen, disapated, and destroyed like the Roman Empire.

Drastic though it may seem, I think all the entities hacking away at the foundations of
American Sociiety should be disempowered.

1. Get rid of the unions. There are more than enough laws in place to protect employees.
2. Political campaign contributions should be made illegal. Leaders of the US should not be beholden to anyone.
3. Corporate lobbiests should be outlawed. Politicians should answer to the citizens who elect them, not special interests.
4. Members of Congress and the Senate, etc. should not be allowed to have their own special medical and retirement plans....they should have to make do with the same plans they put in place for everyday citizens.

Our political system is broken and rife with self-serving corruption. It is time for everyday citizens to demand corrective action.

By: gdiafante on 3/21/11 at 7:40

So Judy's answer is "if you don't like it, move". Classy.

I suppose her other point is that the only goal for an American is to get rich. Pay attention young women...if your boyfriend or fiance doesn't make over $100K right now, you better dump him now...

Apparently, it's all about money.

By: budlight on 3/21/11 at 7:42

Essay? Or Dissertation? Or Thesis? Too long for city paper? Not according to a few readers, however I think some unions are overboard. They are designed to protect the workers. So if the government is supposed to protect the worker, why do they need 2 protectors, ie, a union AND a government?

Spooky you hit the nail on the head with your last post when you said "With over 30 grammar errors in the first 20 paragraphs it is clear the teachers unions have priories that have little to do with teaching."

More attention to teaching please. Our country needs HIGHER education and not all this fighting.

By: budlight on 3/21/11 at 7:44

Heart of a Teacher says Dave Ramsey. Do our teachers have a "heart" for teaching? If not, they should. It's a vocation that takes love, patience and knowledge.

By: gdiafante on 3/21/11 at 7:47

"1. Get rid of the unions. There are more than enough laws in place to protect employees.

Laws can be repealed.

2. Political campaign contributions should be made illegal. Leaders of the US should not be beholden to anyone.

Not bad, but there's too much money on both sides, it will never happen.

3. Corporate lobbiests should be outlawed. Politicians should answer to the citizens who elect them, not special interests.

See number two...and good luck

4. Members of Congress and the Senate, etc. should not be allowed to have their own special medical and retirement plans....they should have to make do with the same plans they put in place for everyday citizens.

In other words: if my healthcare is crappy, yours should be too. And if we can't get them to do that, we can take our ball and go home...**sticking out tongue**

By: Community-carl-... on 3/21/11 at 7:57

I believe that American society has reached the tipping point where the greedy, irresponsible people outnumber the members of our society who actually pull their own weight and contibute something positive to society as a whole.

I love the United States, but the ideals this country was founded on have been so perverted and twisted that I fear we are doomed. My heart aches for my decendants.

By: Captain Nemo on 3/21/11 at 7:57

Good morning


By: Captain Nemo on 3/21/11 at 7:57

When did this start coming in book form?

By: Heloise on 3/21/11 at 8:10


I've known many people who moved here from Michigan. Many of them did not understand that the unions they love so much killed the goose that laid the golden egg and that was the reason they moved to a right to work state where there were jobs.

All I see of unions is that they take decent people and form them into a corrupt political machine of unthinking sheep who cause trouble for others. Did you see the videos of those disgusting workers, foul talking goons and thugs from other states, that descended upon the Wisconsin state capitol and left trash and debris everywhere for others to pick up?

Modern day public unions seem to believe "all animals are equal but some are more equal than others." Public unions are subsidized by the "public." That's us the citizens. If there is no money from our coffers, then the union members must share in our belt-tightening and are no more the "victim" than I am in this economic downturn.

Of course, us southerners are dumb hayseeds who don't know better than to tote our guns and bibles around but we were smart enough to build roads with lanes leading out of the state as well as into it for those who don't like it here.

By: Nitzche on 3/21/11 at 8:18

next article...why the horse and buggy matter?

By: judyboodo@yahoo.com on 3/21/11 at 8:24

Apparently gdiafante you must have lost focus trying to read that incredibly long whine. Most of it revolved around not being able to use collective bargaining for increases in pay and benefits. Charles, a self professed union leaning northerner wants to let those of us who live in the land of the unenlightened know how it should be done. Most of us take exception to that kind of instruction. Most of us go to work every day to try to make a living, we don't take time to picket the state house, lobby our elected representatives OR sit at home while our spouses go to work at a real job and cry about our station in life. Nope this guy's a whiner who yearns for what his pappy probably had in the wolverine state. Problem is his pappy got in on the ground floor before the guaranteed collapse of that whole house of cards the union built fell down. Now the artificial lifestyle that he grew up thinking he could be a part of finally died a guaranteed death. It was inevitable. You can massage his bruised and shattered dreams all you want but the real world won't be denied. The union model doesn't work in the long term. Welcome to the long term.

By: slacker on 3/21/11 at 8:27

Brevity is the soul of a Yankee rant.

By: gdiafante on 3/21/11 at 8:27

Speaking of long whine...want some cheese with that, Judy?

I have a feeling you wouldn't know the real world if it bit you on the ass.

By: BigPapa on 3/21/11 at 8:29

"But then again, I was brainwashed. I’m sure if I were from Tennessee, I would know that Davy Crockett did most of that."

This is where he lost me. If you want to write about the benefits of Unions, do that, but this sounds like a Keith Oberman/Daily Show take. Just cheap shots. I fully expected to hear about how everyone in the south dates their sister, and eats possum.... yeah yeah yeah.

I dont think anyone from Michigan can really give anyone any where else in the USA much advice on success given their current state of affairs.

By: pswindle on 3/21/11 at 8:32

I understand what the writer was saying. Unions have touched every family in providing a better life one way or the other. Working conditions would be terrible in the US without someone looking. You would think that the GOP has never had to work for a living, but they have benefited from the safe work condistions, 40 hour week, paid vacations, etc. Ron Rasmsey is so caught up in his own worth that he forgets the worth of others. Bust, we will not forget at the next election.

By: Captain Nemo on 3/21/11 at 8:32

By: Heloise on 3/21/11 at 9:10

Of course, us southerners are dumb hayseeds who don't know better than to tote our guns and bibles around but we were smart enough to build roads with lanes leading out of the state as well as into it for those who don't like it here.


Do I notice a hint of Northern envy in Heloise's post?

BTW I am a native Nashville resident.

By: judyboodo@yahoo.com on 3/21/11 at 8:35

Really gdiafante, I guess I missed the post where you crowned the lord high working man. You seem just like another misplaced Yankee longing for the good old days. Now about that ass biting, I'll defer to you, someone who seems to know more about it than I. Good luck with your socialistic leanings. Your time has passed.

By: gdiafante on 3/21/11 at 8:59

As usual, Judy, you're wrong again. Born and raised in Tennessee.

First, the Civil War ended a long, long time ago. The "Yankee go home" mantra is ridiculously stupid.

Second, I knew it was a matter of time before the knuckle-dragger pulled the "Socialist" card.


By: Captain Nemo on 3/21/11 at 9:15

Gosh Darn I did not know gdiafante was lord high working man. LOL

By: gdiafante on 3/21/11 at 9:32

Wage-workers have an entire right to organize and by all peaceful and honorable means to endeavor to persuade their fellows to join with them in organizations.

President Theodore Roosevelt, State of the Union address 12/6/04

Uh oh…looks like Teddy was a Socialist…We should immediately remove him from Mt. Rushmore...

By: PhiDelt496 on 3/21/11 at 9:34

I would like to say, that I dont see these bills as anti-teacher, I see it as anti-bad teacher. Both of my parents where union employees, and the only comments that they have ever made about the unions are that the unions only protect those who dont want to do their jobs. I feel like this is all that unions are left for. Companies have started to realize that if they offer competitive benefits packages and market based salaries, they will keep employees longer and that the employees will be more productive and happy. I rank the benefits I receive in my non-union position to anything most union employees get.

You make the points about how your wife works so hard and so much without overtime pay...welcome to being a salaried professional. I average over 50 hours a week, and have gone months pushing 80-90 hours a week, all on salary. I love what I do and make the sacrifice to have work that I enjoy and find rewarding. I do not whine and cry about how I am underpaid or overworked. In the past, when I have felt that I was not compensated properly for my efforts, I would wait for my merit based increase, and if it wasnt sufficient to alleviate those feelings, I would seek other employment. This is the way it is for the vast majority of the workforce. Why do teachers feel they should be held to a different standard?

I really think that for the most part, Republicans are trying to create legislation that reflects the majority of Tennesseeans viewpoints, with some exceptions of course. I feel like anywhere that random law abiding citizens with proper permits can carry their firearms will make those places safer. I am not anti-immigration, I am anti-illegal immigration (mostly for the illegal part). I could write an essay on the Muslim situation. And I think that whatever 2 (or more) consenting adults do in their bedroom is their business, but it should stay in their bedroom.

Thats my $.02 I hope you get at least a penny out of it.

By: gdiafante on 3/21/11 at 9:37

That's December 6, 1904...

By: budlight on 3/21/11 at 9:45

Do teachers work 9 months and then get 3 months off with pay? How does that work? And almost all "salaried" people I know don't just clock in 8 hours; they do a lot of "extra" time and labor. Teaching is an act of love and the teachers who get rich have good investments and good work habits.

Unions are not all bad, however, again: WHY have a union to protect Federal, State and local government workers? Isn't the government supposed to protect them?

And what about those underpaid, worked to the bone servers in restaurants? Many of the states pay under $3 an hour for "hourly wage" and the servers just hope for tips. What's up with that? Pay them minimum wage in case they get low tippers.

By: Antisocialite on 3/21/11 at 10:01

This is a very well written and well sourced essay. Mr. Maldonado has used actual facts and budgetary numbers to expose the various misleading statistics and outright lies given out by those who seek to destroy the TEA. It's telling that not one of the detractors on this board has chosen to take issue with the math behind this essay. No, they would rather focus on making easy jabs at superfluous grammatical errors and a 'my state (or region) is better than yours,' dick-measuring contest.

By: Gary Lampman on 3/21/11 at 10:16

This is a truthful essay that lost me at times. The Facts are that so called Chirstians that politic at the church steps ,just before the church Sermon. Enspousing hatefilled rehtoric,selective morality,Jealious rage, and deceitful alliances are driven to remove Public Education . Theirs is to force families into Religious Charter Schools and pay Homage to their Master. Money!

Good Chirstians?

Followers of Christ would be appauld by the actions of Legislators who embrace old testiment views and disregards the New Testiment. You cannot serve two Masters!

I believe that the Legislatures approach is contrary to religious teachings and treads on the very fabric of our Democratic Values.Most importantly, the Characterizations of teachers and Unions are unwarranted exercise of Dominance and unlimited Power.
To that end; the GOP will not stop until we make the United States into a third world country like Mexico with 50% Object Poverty. Each day in this economy, employers are driving down benefits and wages. The removal of Collective Barganing is the symbolic downfall of Labor Rights and Protections across this Country. Don't let them steel your rights and Protections!

By: BigPapa on 3/21/11 at 10:17

Unions exit under false premis that "nobody else can do this job, and if you dont pay X, we will all refuse to work. That'll show ya!" The reality is that almost all of these jobs have proven to be the exact opposite. Car manufacturing, garmet work, clothing, textiles, steel- all can, and are done by other people at lower wadges. Teaching is no different.

By: GUARDIAN on 3/21/11 at 10:20

GUARDIAN-Why have a union in a right to work state? For the same reason socialist controlled states aren't right to work states. So the criminal thugs can bully everyone to get what they want no matter who it hurts. Besides how can the left control all those people and take all their money and give to the politicians on the left. GET RID OF THE UNIONS !!!!!!!!!!!!

By: Captain Nemo on 3/21/11 at 10:21

Every teacher I know from the time I was in school and today, have summer jobs.

By: Captain Nemo on 3/21/11 at 10:25

Right to work state, is code for slave state. lol

By: Captain Nemo on 3/21/11 at 10:31

shb known.

By: budlight on 3/21/11 at 10:38

Capt. that is true; most of them work summer jobs, however a lot of lower and middle income folks have 2 - sometimes 3 - jobs. Do you know if teachers are paid for 9 months or 12? Just curious.

By: Loner on 3/21/11 at 10:39

Ah, so this is where the action is on this dreary Monday morning.

Once again, Spooky went pedantic with the grammar thing and in the process committed another grammatical error of his own. The guy keeps coming back for more....must be a masochist. Great job in exposing the Spookster, Gdiafante, I laughed out loud.

I agree, the Tea Party is fomenting class warfare...the Koch brothers are whipping the asinine masses into a lather....again, more masochism, I suppose.

By: Loner on 3/21/11 at 10:50

My teachers K-8 were Felician nuns. We had a 3-classroom school. No sports. No cafeteria. No buses. No shop. No gymnasium. No security apparatus.

The nuns took the vow of poverty. Of course, they were non-unionized.

This year, in June, it will be fifty years since the Lone one graduated from the 8th grade, at our little school. After that, it was public high school.

I'd like to thank those nuns, publicly, for their personal sacrifices and dedication to the job. Of course, I'm sure many have passed on...if there is a heaven, they all deserve entry, IMO. They were not perfect, but they they came pretty darn close, for human beings, that is.

By: minuet on 3/21/11 at 10:52

"I would like to say, that I dont see these bills as anti-teacher, I see it as anti-bad teacher."

And you would be wrong. These bills have nothing to do with poorly performing teachers. Under current tenure law, teachers can be fired for incompetence, inefficiency, insubordination, neglect of duty or unprofessional conduct. Every year, teachers are fired for one of those causes, or they resign or retire rather than be fired. But the public almost never hears about it. All they hear is the constant lie from the right that tenure protects bad teachers.

I'll tell you what protects bad teachers...school administrations. Either the supervisor is too lazy or incompetent at his own job to oversee his subordinates, or, more often, the teacher is being protected by someone in the school system power structure on the base of family relationships, marriage, church membership, or political affiliation. And the governor's tenure bill does not have one single thing in it that addresses the issue of irresponsible school administrations. All his bill does is make it harder for teachers to get the protections of tenure, and easier for teachers to lose them. It's a flim-flam, and it will make it impossible for Tennessee, which already loses up to 50% of its new teachers in the first five years, to retain teachers.

By: minuet on 3/21/11 at 10:54

"Unions exit under false premis that "nobody else can do this job, and if you dont pay X, we will all refuse to work. That'll show ya!""

Not the teachers union. The teachers union is forbidden by law to strike. So what else have you got?

By: Loner on 3/21/11 at 10:57

Minuet's post makes sense to me.

I agree. This sounds like a sham. a scam and a flim-flam.

By: Captain Nemo on 3/21/11 at 11:02


They are only paid for 9 months bud as far as I know.

By: minuet on 3/21/11 at 11:03

"Do teachers work 9 months and then get 3 months off with pay? How does that work?"

No, they do not. Not in Tennessee, anyway. That's another lie from the right. Some teachers are in year round schools, but not many. Most other teachers work 10 month contracts, and they do not get paid for the summer. Many school systems offer the option of holding back money from a teacher's chekc for each month of the school year to make up checks for the summer, but teachers do not get paid for the summer months that they do not work. Some teachers work summer school, but they don't receive their salary for that work; they generally receive a stipend for the work that is much lower than their regular salaries. Some teachers go back to school in the summer to add endorsements, so that they can teach more subjects, and some teachers get a second job, because teaching doesn't pay enough to support a teacher's family for an entire year.

"Unions are not all bad, however, again: WHY have a union to protect Federal, State and local government workers? Isn't the government supposed to protect them?"

Because this country is founded on the notion that the citizens do occasionally need to be protected from the actions of their government. Public employees, due to their employment by government, are in a unique position to have the government mess with them and their livelihoods. That's why they need a union.