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Travis Rowley: Deborah Gist Deserves A Pay Raise (Chapter 1)

Saturday, June 01, 2013

 

The resume for Education Commissioner Deborah Gist was enhanced this week when a union-commissioned poll claimed that 85% of Rhode Island teachers “believe Gist’s contract should not be renewed.”

Only in the sophomoric world of organized labor is it notable whenever employees are found to – get this – dislike their boss.

But back here in reality, there would only be cause for concern if teachers overwhelmingly approved of the individual charged with making sure they do their jobs.

For political purposes, we often hear critics of organized labor speaking oh-so-delicately to the rank-and-file – the actual union voting bloc. It’s not you. It’s the union leadership that we have a problem with.

But the fact of the matter is that union members are hardly the harmless representatives of the “working class” that they portend to be. Many of them are hard-core professional activists – community organizers of the most radical variety.

Last year, after the North Kingstown school committee decided to save taxpayers money by privatizing the town’s custodial services, local teachers locked arms with an outright Marxist organization called Justice for Janitors – an SEIU outfit that was once caught designing a scheme that would “disrupt and create uncertainty,” “bring down the stock market,” “put banks at the edge of insolvency again,” and “literally cause a new financial crisis” – all in the name of “redistribut[ing] wealth and power.”

It’s an undeniable political reality: These are the types of people associated with government unions.

Even the most tame public school teacher can often be found embracing the religion of solidarity. Several years ago (during yet another labor dispute) a caller to the Dan Yorke Show (630 WPRO) expressed just how much she vehemently disagreed with the arguments being posited by her own teachers union. It was actually pretty refreshing. Until this: “But at the end of the day, I will always stand by my union.” (paraphrase)

It should come as no surprise that, in large measure, union members are unionists – labor religionists who view themselves as morally superior victims of “corporate America” and the “private sector” (you know, other people’s freedom). After all, there simply is no communication strategy that can compete with the access that union bosses have to their members.

Union Thuggery

Several years ago Central Falls School Superintendent Frances Gallo attempted to implement a “transformation model” for the City’s failing high school (CFHS), which required extra effort on behalf of the faculty. The teachers responded with the full force of union agitation. Protests, rallies, “vigils” – and the manipulation of student “activists” – typified the controversy. For months the union activists could be seen shouting, “We Are Central Falls!” (whatever that means).

After President Obama expressed support for Gallo’s reforms, one teacher displayed an effigy hanging in his classroom of the first black president of the United States. Among other hostilities, Gallo received a letter stating, “I wish cancer on your children and their children, and that you live long enough to see them die.”

With Gallo refusing to resign, the teachers union went public with their thuggery, passing votes of “no confidence” regarding her leadership, and bothering Rhode Islanders with reports of petty workplace disputes.

After internal documents were leaked to his office, the labor-friendly Senator from Smithfield, John Tassoni (D), hastily fabricated a media storm, informing the public that Gallo had wasted taxpayer dollars by purchasing a time clock for $100,000.

When chair of the Board of Trustees Anna Cano Morales tried to tell Tassoni that he was “misinformed” regarding the cost and details of the purchase, Tassoni stubbornly maintained, “I’m not misinformed. I mean the documents speak for themselves. I didn’t make these documents up.”

The story persisted throughout the Ocean State media for some time, until the Providence Journal determined that “it clearly was not just a time clock. And it didn’t cost $100,000. The total was just over half that.” The Projo’s Politifact editors concluded, “Tassoni could have asked school officials about the documents he was shown. Instead, the senator – who publishes a union newspaper and is a former union administrator – simply added up the totals on the three documents to push his case against the school leadership.” When Tassoni learned that his claims were being investigated, he finally cowered and admitted to Politifact, “I could be all wet.”

After Gallo pulled ahead of the unions in terms of public support and sympathy, Central Falls teachers then attempted to undermine the transformation model with “a high rate of teacher absences that…persisted all year…On any given day, an average of 14 teachers…[were] absent.” ABC News reported that CFHS had an “87% teacher absentee rate.” This meant that “on average teachers miss 23 days of school a year. Which is a lot,” commented one ABC reporter.

While it was clear that the union was employing a “work to rule” measure – an illegal and bad faith tactic of organized labor – union president Jane Sessums claimed that the teachers had suddenly found “themselves in a high-stress work environment,” and that explained “why teachers might be taking the number of sick days that they are.”

Just more union dramatics. We have children teaching our children.

But, apparently, the unions think you should be impressed by the fact that these people disapprove of Deborah Gist.


Travis Rowley (TravisRowley.com) is the author of The RI Republican: An Indictment of the Rhode Island Left.

 

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