Monday, September 7, 2015

This Labor Day I'm thinking about Little Abner

Little Abner was a brilliant comic strip by Al Capp.  It was written before my time but I remember my father telling me about it.  It was one of his favorite comic strips when he was young.

One of the recurring characters was a Shmoo.  Shmoos are so sweet and super accommodating.  They have a huge rear end and were written to represent the American worker.  The Shmoo liked nothing better than to be kicked in the pants.

Mr Capp noticed the American worker would bend over backward to keep the boss happy even when it really hurt.  They would not stand up to improve their situation.

This is the natural way.  Humans are herd like animals. When on their own they get kicked in the pants, A-LOT but when they organize they begin to look less like Shmoos.

When a group of workers organize they have rights they would not have otherwise.  They can discuss working conditions, organize as a group and even critique management.  These rights create checks and balances in large organizations where the employees work.

There are some barriers to organizing right now.  Workers rights have been eroded and sometimes organizers face punitive action.

In 1948 the  Universal Declaration of Human Rights stated, “Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.”  Times have changed and these rights are not being protected under the current legislation.  But Fear Not!  New legislation is being considered which would add the right to organize to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  This would allow workers to sue in federal court if they are discriminated against for trying to organize.  But what can we do until this legislation passes?

What can you do to strengthen existing rights?  You can join a related association. A trade association, a union, or a group like BATs may be what you need.  If you are a teacher there are many to choose from. Research carefully and choose the most effective for your purposes.  

Support local action to protect your own rights and the rights of your fellow workers.  This is important because our working conditions are the students learning conditions.  Unless we all work together to improve working conditions, teaching will become a high-churn, low-quality environment.  I don't want that for my fellow teachers or my students.  For the sake of all stake holders teachers need to stand up and insist on proper working conditions.  

Today I am grateful for the active, volunteers who earned Labor Day, eight hour work day, minimum wage and so many other rights.  Even though they are long gone their actions reverberate down through the ages.  Do not be afraid to join together with others to make improvements.  It may be the only thing that can save public education today.  

I am posting this tonight as a grateful member of Professional Educators of Tennessee.  I am looking forward to working with other members and other teachers to rebuild our public schools into what they can be.  

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