Wednesday, September 03, 2003

Day 2 of the strike

My legs are sore, I'm chafing, I have a blister on my right little toe, I'm slightly sunburned, and I'm not getting anything for my efforts. If I'd known that this is how my first days of my new teaching career would go, I might have reconsidered, or kept applying in other districts. Already this is looking to be a long fight — there won't even be another negotiating session until Monday — and the district has declared a "state of emergency" and is threatening to take the union to court to get us back to work without a contract. Fortunately we also have a lot of community support, although there are the few crackpots who think we're somehow not entitled to make our voices heard or that we should all be fired or something ridiculous like that. And as we're the only school on the main drag of downtown, we're probably giving our cause the most visibility, and getting the brunt of the bouquets and brickbats.

I'm not happy about this whole situation. I'm really not happy that our union was forced into this decision. But from everything I've heard, I think I've figured out what the biggest issue in this strike is. It's not, ultimately, about the money or workload or other such things that you can put into a contract. It's about trust, respect, and communication. The district made an offer back in June and basically said, "Take it or leave it." The union made counterproposals, but the district never made any new proposals, even when a mediator got involved. The word "negotiation" here was a joke, as there was no negotiating going on. One side just dug in their heels and said, "This is how it is," without giving an inch. The district has pulled other tactics like this over the past couple of years, and it just seems to be that the teachers have gotten sick and tired of being treated as if they don't matter. I suspect that if the district had come in and said, "Look, we need to make a few changes, and here's why, and if we work together, we can come to an agreement that works for all of us," today I'd be telling you about my second day of teaching. But now it's getting ugly, with talk of lawsuits and security guards patrolling our campus. The teachers want to teach, despite some of the propeganda that's being bandied about, but they want to teach as respected members of the community and a part of the process, not as some sort of automatons who can be ordered about and told what's good for them. We are not children or pets, and we don't want to be treated like we are.

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