There is a very sly op ed in the Commercial Appeal today. The headline reads “Collective bargaining an American birthright.” The author, James Frost, teaches American history at Arlington High School. He begins his propaganda by saying “the United States of America would not exist today if it were not for collective bargaining.” Eye catching, huh?
He details how the colonies all came together – a sort of collective bargaining – to challenge their rights taken away by Great Britain. Locke inspired them with his talk of man’s natural rights and how we enter into a social contract with the state. “You protect my rights, and I will protect yours.” Out of this came “Locke’s right of revolution, which Jefferson asserted in the Declaration of Independence in 1776,” Frost writes.
It all sounds clever and believable. “The colonists bargained with Parliament over who would ultimately rule America… Americans won that war. Therefore, the right of collective bargaining is an American birthright just as much as voting, free speech or freedom of religion,” Mr. Frost declares.
From this premise he jumps to the Tennessee General Assembly. “They want to usurp that right by passing legislation that would prohibit or restrict collective bargaining by teachers with local school districts. When did I, or any other teacher in this state, abdicate his sovereignty?” he asks.
Where to begin with so much flawed logic?
First, the U.S. would not exist today had it not been for brave individuals. There was no union for the colonists. No bosses sat down with members of Parliament. Leaders like George Washington and John Adams were willing to give their lives for their country. They didn’t bargain their way to freedom; they took up arms. They didn’t even have a majority of the populace behind them. It is estimated that only about a third of colonists wanted to pursue revolution. The visionaries persevered, not the mob.
In the Enlightenment, philosophers like Locke and Rousseau talked about the individual and his rights in his contract with the state. They didn’t need a third party to intervene. It was Marx and Lenin who talked about the masses. And when they meant the masses they meant the people who would give them power, not whom they would represent.
As to Mr. Frost’s individual rights, he forgets that we are a republic, not a pure democracy. We held an election in November. Americans selected representatives to vote for us on issues. Budgets, union rights and other issues were on the ballot indirectly. Republicans won the election in Tennessee and many other states. Sorry, you lost. You will have to wait until the next election to change the legislatures.
By the way, did you not know that the federal government does not allow collective bargaining? Even FDR realized that it would be disastrous for the nation. There’s a big difference between union bargaining in private and public institutions. When union bosses sit down with employers, the bosses take the workers’ future into consideration and gutting the business, they realize, will gut jobs, too. When unions sit down with public representatives, they are making deals with politicians. The politicians are not making concessions that will hurt them; the taxpayer is the chump who will ultimately pay. The politician just wants to be re-elected. He can be long gone when trouble comes in and funds run out.
Frost lambastes Senator Kelsey for wondering why teachers should be “forced to engage in collective bargaining.” Wouldn’t a good teacher like to be responsible for himself and his own classroom to his school and students? When did we need a third party to enter into it? This has led to tenure for teachers who no longer care about eduction who keep their spot while younger teachers recently hired and are doing a good job jettisoned for the status quo. Collective bargaining has brought rubber rooms and poor scores. This is the system we’ve had for years and look where we are. Citizens pay about $10,000 per pupil to get kids who can’t do basic math or write basic paragraphs.
I happen to agree with Kelsey that unions contribute to an adversarial relationship between teachers and school boards and teachers and parents. The students in Wisconsin who were dragged to union protests didn’t advance their educational skills.
How Frost goes from the Republican party to St. Thomas More’s failure to stop Henry VIII is comical and desperate. Is any Republican threatening to cut off heads? No, but the unions are giving death threats to legislators.
What’s scariest about his ideas are not that he believes them. What’s scary is a teacher who tries to take his ideas and promote it as history to untrained minds.