Volume 97, Issue 2
Thursday, May 29, 2003

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Why unions are bad for education

From the Far Lane
Emmett Macfarlane

Not many people with direct involvement in the education system – teachers, parents or students – would applaud the changes that Ontario's Tory government has made over the past eight years.

The Common Sense Revolution, while instilling some measure of fiscal accountability, also ran roughshod over the curriculum. The sweeping changes were intended to challenge students and indeed they have. Who would have thought it could be challenging to learn without textbooks?

Right from the start the teachers' unions stood up for students and the quality of education – that's what union leaders believe anyway (or at least that's what they say).

For teachers' unions, the most effective way to gallantly fight for student's rights is, apparently, to hurt the students. Across the country this is accomplished in the form of work to rule, meaning teachers stop doing all the things they don't have to do, like coach sports teams.

Fortunately, some teachers (i.e. the good ones) do not favour the work to rule approach. This discrepancy poses a problem, for unions like to enforce their fascist rules.

This spring, British Columbia teacher Ed Nielsen was fined nearly $350 by the B.C. Teachers' Federation because he continued to coach basketball during the union's work to rule job action.

The union defended its stupidity by suggesting it was protecting democracy. Nielsen failed to abide by the democratic will of the Federation's members and had to be punished.

It's not something that happens very often, but it was not unprecedented. A similar thing happened to another teacher in Ontario in 1999.

Teachers, like most unionized employees, aren't members by choice. You either pay your union dues or you don't have a job. Unions thus have great power over their members and since they operate just like government, they can be just as corrupt.

One could argue unions were only legitimately needed decades ago, when workplace safety or minimum wage laws didn't exist.

For argument's sake, lets say unions are necessary. By definition, they need to be unified, otherwise they would have no power during negotiations with employers. In that sense, union supporters would say such fines are a necessary evil. But aren't these the same people who stand up for principle?

Not anymore. These days, having principles is something left to teachers like Ed Nielsen.


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