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The Other Side of the Tracks blog by Word Press

Where Is Our Priority?

The Other Side of the Tracks: A Socially Speaking commentary

October 2, 2012

By Perry Redd


America is insane.  The American people are the most wishy-washy, forked-tongued, easily-mislead people on earth.  The NFL referee strike/lockout is over.  Football is supposedly, back to normal.  That employee-employer tug-of-war seemed to incense this country and the general public was glad to give the refs what they wanted.  But we’ve got collective amnesia.  Remember just months ago, we lambasted anyone who supported unions.

We supported the negotiations of the referees union, though we seemingly will give up collective bargaining.  Just one week and a half ago, another strike was going on and people blasted the employees in that battle…Chicago teachers.  And a year before that, Wisconsin civil servants went on strike and they too were cast as villians—by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and pro-corporate conservatives who unashamedly supported the striking referees…all for the sake of the game.

The referees weren’t after the money (though money ain’t the worse thing they could’ve went for), nor were Chicago’s teachers—even though their contract restricted them, by law, from striking over any other issue (who settled on that one?). Wisconsin public employees weren’t after money either.  So what’s the difference?  The referees were able to keep their pensions—through 2016. Don’t be fooled pensions are about money.  Head coaches and players have also tried in vain for pension guarantees; they don’t have a pension plan anymore, but the referees made it happen for themselves.

On the other hand, the teachers’ pay deal calls for an average raise of 17.6% over four years…that’s big, down from the 30% initially sought by their union. In Wisconsin, last year, municipal employees sought the right to continue to bargain as a group—as a union—for wages and work conditions. Their strike ended in their right’s being stripped and a recall election of the Governor in which he barely hung on. In effect, Wisconsin state workers lost some of their power; even though courts upheld their collective bargaining rights, yet they remain under assault by the Governor.

The referees union was seeking improved salaries, retirement benefits and other logistical issues for the part-time officials. The NFL owners has proposed a pension freeze in exchange for a higher 401(k) match, and it wants to hire 21 more officials to improve the quality of officiating. The union balked, fearing the NFL’s proposal it would lead to job loss, as well as a reduction in overall compensation. Hopefully, these ridiculously enormous pay raises will keep up with the cost of living.  I can’t think of another American worker (aside from corporate CEO’s) that get that kind of raise.

When the smoke cleared, football fans cheered and even Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker applauded the end of the strike—with the union winning intact.  How bogus of him!  He spent a year trying to destroy unions for teachers!  That’s the contradiction of conservatives.  South Carolina Sen. Linsey Graham equated the Chicago teachers to “thugs.” What?  But you know he didn’t use that language concerning the referees!  Oh no…that would be un-patriotic!  What a coward…

By the way, Chicago teachers’ primary dissatisfaction wasn’t about money but work conditions. They were happy to secure concessions limiting a school reform program that they believed would harm students and cost teachers’ jobs.  Attackers and protractors openly criticized the teachers for using their collective bargaining rights, as did Wisconsin workers, but I didn’t hear that same sharp criticism of the referees—who also used their collective bargaining rights!  We’ve got our priorities messed up!

It’s been reported that 70,000 people wrote letters in support of getting the referees back to work. But for 350,000 children in Chicago’s school system, public figures failed to stand up for teachers—who sit with those 350,000 school-age children everyday!  Teachers are in session over 200 days a year. Teachers essentially provide child protective service for our most important resource—our children.  Contrast that with NFL referees who work only 18 days a year! Damn! You do the math…

Both fans and sports analysts heaped mounds of trash-talk against replacement referees’ with intensifying criticism that erupted following the officiating debacle during the “Monday Night Football” when the Seattle Seahawks defeated the Green Bay Packers, 14-12.  But when it’s over, the love affair resumes.  What about our teachers?

Perhaps, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker likened football to air safety when he interjected himself into the strike AFTER the referee’s “bad call.” He showed support for the unionized referees, but ignored, ridiculed, and then lambasted the unionized public servants of his state. Obviously, he’s a fan with no love lost on civil servants—the teachers and other state agency workers that keep his state functioning. Let’s learn a lesson from this episode and get our priorities straight.  Support unions and the workers unions represent.  They work to serve you.

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