Bellbottom Blog

Scratching A Writing Itch From Time To Time

Archive for the month “September, 2012”

Teachers and Unions

This will be quick.

As some of you know, the teachers in Chicago’s public school system are out on strike.

This was thought to be impossible.  The Illinois State Legislature had passed a law ,at the urging of Chicago’s current Mayor, requiring a 3/4 majority vote before a union could call a strike.

Problem is, the teachers are so upset 90% of them voted to go out on strike.

So, here we are.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am 100% in  favor of unions.  I spent a few years as a union steward.  I don’t believe that management would willingly treat employees fairly without some sort of union pressure.  That is how they came to be.

Over the years, since Pres. Reagan fired the air traffic controllers,  it has been tough for unions.  And workers have suffered as a result.

Businesses started moving their operations out of the country, paying workers there  pennies compared to what they had to pay workers here.

Wages drop. People have to work more than one job or both spouses have to work in order to get by. Or both spouses have to work two jobs.  It can be a damn hard life.

The narrative I have seen suggests that union members should make less to bring them in line with others.

You will notice when this sort of logic is applied to the top one percent, they scream “class warfare”.

Make them pay their fair share in taxes and the rich have fits.

So, applying their own logic to the rest of us, we should be working to get wages up to the union standard.  A rising tide lifts all boats.

The problem with dealing with the teachers union is you can’t outsource them.  You have to find a way to break them or scare them into concessions.  These are CHICAGO teachers, my friends.  They don’t scare. I also read today the janitors union is going to join the strike.

My advice to the Mayor of Chicago is do what you can to make the teachers happy.  They work in a town where kids are shot and killed on a weekly basis.  That kind of threat of violence has to find its way into the schools. A child’s attention is tough enough to get without them having to worry about the walk home.

In addition the cost of living in a big city is never mentioned when wages are talked about.  Rent or home ownership is way more expensive in a big city such as Chicago of New York as compared to a small town in, say, Iowa, for example.

Education is always the first budget cut.  ALWAYS.  If you want a better world, you have got to  give kids the best education possible.  And you have to pay for it.  I have voted in favor of referendums that wanted to raise property taxes for the schools. Even with my own kids in college, I will still willingly support any move to fund the schools at a level that will be fair for all.

Stop teaching to the test.

Keep the arts education along with readin’, writin’ and ‘rithmatic.

Stop trying to unload the most senior teachers with “evaluations”.

And parents need to be involved.  Volunteer. Keep an eye on the homework.  Send e-mails to the teachers.  Even if everything is going well.  Let them know how much you appreciate their efforts.

Our kids and  teachers deserve our best.




I Still Believe In A Place Called Hope

I was going to wait until after tomorrow night and write a recap of the Democratic National Convention.

My plans changed after hearing former Pres. Clinton give his speech.

Let’s travel back in time for a little while.

In 1992, after eight years of Reagan and four years of Bush the Elder, there seemed to be an opportunity for a Democrat to be elected President. Not a great opportunity, but if things fell right, it was possible.

As a lifelong Democrat, I was more than ready for that to happen.

Along comes Bill Clinton.  He had been Governor of Arkansas.  He survived a tough primary battle and there always seemed to be some sort of controversy following him around. But he was our nominee.

At the convention, he gave a tremendous speech which ended with the line I am using for the title of this post.  It was a long speech. He had given a speech in 1988 at the last convention that lasted so long, he was invited on the Tonight Show to explain himself.

During the fall campaign, he faced not just the incumbent, there was a little feisty millionaire named Ross Perot.

There is a documentary about that campaign called The War Room. Told from inside the Clinton election headquarters.  Very interesting stuff.

On Election Day, after a very hostile campaign, the country had a new president.

President Bill Clinton.

He brought to the White House a very astute political mind and a ton of baggage. He was called slick.  A womanizer. His enemies followed him from Arkansas.  He also picked up more when he got to D.C.  The Republicans really hated him for ending their run in the White House.

Investigations took up a lot of Congress’ time over his first term.  Most amounted to nothing.

Meanwhile, he was able to get the Family Medical Leave Act through Congress. That allowed people to get unpaid leave in the event of a family medical emergency.  I think it was one of the biggest accomplishments of his time in office.

Brokering a lasting peace in Ireland was another great moment for his administration.

In 1996, he faced a re-election battle against Sen. Bob Dole.  He won the battle, but the investigations continued.  Eventually, he got himself in trouble because of an inexcusable affair with an intern. Impeachment proceedings commenced.  He was impeached by the House and went on to face trial in the Senate.  That was where it ended.  The Senate decided not to kick him out of office and he was able to serve out his term.

His Vice-President, Al Gore ran for President against George W. Bush, a Governor from Texas.  I don’t feel like writing about that mess, so let us skip ahead.

He went on to be an ex-President.  Wrote a book. Started a foundation.  Gave speeches. Made some serious money giving speeches. Helped his wife become Senator from New York.

Eventually, his wife ran for President in the Democratic Primaries in 2008 against Sen. Obama.

Bill gave speeches all over the country during the long battle for the nomination.

I saw him in Fort Wayne.  He filled the auditorium and was even more remarkable in person as a speaker.  No teleprompter just a few notes.  He had a wonderful way of explaining why you should vote for his wife using a mix of humor and passion.

I imagine he knew how much he owed her considering all they had been through in their life together.

She lost that battle by a narrower margin than people remember.

Her opponent in that fight went on to be President, winning by 8.5 million votes over Sen. John McCain.

The Republicans didn’t and don’t like this turn of events.  They have been doing everything they can do to make this term a failure. You could argue different if you like, but this is how I see it.

Last week, I gave my opinion of the RNC.  So, I won’t go over that again here.  Take a look at it if you haven’t.

The DNC started with a long series of speeches capped off by Michelle Obama giving her husband a boost with a speech even Republicans liked.

The second night ended with former President Bill Clinton giving a prime time speech.

And what a speech it was.  Scheduled to last 28 minutes, it went 48.  Reporters who had the transcript of the speech were left scrambling because he went off script as he saw fit.  It was a flawless performance.  With the rhythms of a Southern preacher, he explained the situation the country was in, how it got there, and how President Obama was the only person who could keep things going in the right direction.  It was full of numbers and facts and specifics.  It was the kind of speech a man who is no longer running for anything can give.

From A Mess To The Masses has the speech up on her site.  You can click on the link in the blogroll and find it.  She titled it The Master At Work.

It is a long way from now until the election.  There will be a lot of money spent trying to run off our current President.  It is a little deflating at times to watch how money seems to overrun the process.

After former President Clinton’s speech, I am allowing myself a little of the optimism that I have always had about voting.  I refuse to believe a 8.5 million vote margin can be turned around into defeat no matter how much money is spent.  Or how many restrictions are put on voters and their ability  to register.

As the man himself said twenty years ago, I still believe in a place called Hope.



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