The Violence of Chicagoís Teachers
Tea Party Economist
by Gary North: Stung
by a Scorpion, Then by a Hospital. This Could Happen to You.
In my previous
report, "How to Break the Chicago Teachers Strike in Seven
Days," I discussed the economics of the teachers union. You
can read the report here.
Federation of Teachers is a paper tiger. The organization bases
its bargaining ability on what is now a legislated restraint, namely,
the shortage of teachers. There is no shortage of teachers at the
wage scale that is imposed by the American Federation of Teachers
on local school boards.
board that will publish a "help wanted" ad that is based
on the prevailing annual salary of any teacher in the district,
including the lowest-paid teacher, will find that it has a glut
Never say "shortage."
Always say "shortage at a government-mandated price ceiling."
Never say "glut." Always say "glut at a government-mandated
that the power of the teachers union is based entirely on legislation
that grants to the teachers union the legal authority to strike.
The threat of the strike, or the threat of intervention by the National
Labor Relations Board, is what prevents any school board from reducing
salaries by at least 25% across the board, and doubling the size
of the classrooms.
There is not
a school district in the United States that could not cut its overall
expenses by at least 50% in one year by taking three steps: (1)
cut the total budget allocated to administration to 20% of the total
budget; (2) double the number of students in each classroom, and
(3) drop next termís salary levels by 25%.
If any public
school teacher does not understand this, that teacher is completely
out of touch with economic reality. Any school district that does
not understand this is also out of touch with economic reality.
With something in the range of 500,000 unemployed or marginally
employed teachers in the United States, who are fully certified
to teach, any district that pays todayís level of salaries to its
teachers is simply flushing the taxpayersí money down the drain.
right of a free society is this: the right to bid. Anyone who meets
the requirements of a job should have a legal right to bid. Anyone
who offers a job should have a legal right to accept a bid. This
is the essence of freedom. It is the essence of capitalism.
It is the essence
of government-protected unions to violate this principle.
The key element
in all of this in Chicagoís public schools today is government coercion.
The government establishes the terms of exchange, thereby negating
the right to bid by anyone who is not a member of a union. It also
negates the right to accept the bid by anyone who is offering employment.
The trade union movement is based on someone with a badge and a
gun who sticks the gun in the belly of the person who is willing
to accept the bid.
The trade union
movement has never been in favor of the common laborer. The trade
union movement has always been in favor of a minority of workers
who have joined a union, whose union then meets the federal governmentís
legal requirements to establish itself as a monopoly for labor services.
A vote of 50% plus 1 of todayís employees can keep out all future
employees who do not join the union. The union is then given the
right to call in someone with a badge and a gun, who then sticks
the gun in the belly of someone who is offering to hire a worker.
of the trade union movement is the use of violence, or the threat
of violence, or both, in order to establish a monopoly of a privileged
group of workers, who hold their position of privilege on the basis
of political power.
of the claim of the privileged union worker is this: he has a legal
right to exclude anybody from competing against him who has not
joined a privileged band of workers, who in turn are the beneficiaries
of political favoritism.
He then makes
the claim that he has ownership of his job. He says that an employer
who offers to hire someone does not possess ownership of the job,
for the employer is not allowed by the government to hire someone
who is qualified for the job, and who is willing to work for a lower
wage, or was willing to work longer hours, than the privileged holder
of the monopoly job.
is implicitly claiming ownership of his job. If he walks off the
job, thereby ending the contract between him and the employer, he
insists that he still possesses the right to that job. He insists
that the employer must not be allowed to offer to hire somebody
else, despite the fact that the privileged worker has walked off
the job and refuses to work.
law imposes financial loss on the person who wants to hire somebody
else for the job. The union calls on the man with a badge and a
gun, who then sticks the gun into the belly of the person who wants
to hire somebody else, and tells that person: "You do not have
the legal authority to offer employment to anybody who is not a
member of the politically privileged group. The job is not yours
When the employer
first hired someone to work for him, he had the legal authority
to make the offer. His company had not yet been unionized. But,
after a majority of the workers who are presently employed get together
and vote in the union, they can exclude all future workers who do
not belong to the organization from legal access to the job. They
do so on the basis of bringing in a man with a badge and a gun,
and having that man threaten violence to the owner of the business.
There is no other basis for union wages, which are above-market
wages, meaning voluntary wages.
of political privilege excludes nonunionized workers from that segment
of the market which is represented by the company which is presently
employing workers. The excluded nonunion workers cannot get access
to these jobs, because the employer is legally prevented from hiring
workers now must go into the labor market which is not marked by
union membership and union control. These excluded workers are in
competition with each other. They had offered to work at wages higher
than what they are now forced to accept.
involves a tremendous government subsidy to two groups in a highly
unionized economy: (1) members of the privileged labor unions, and
(2) employers in the nonunionized sectors of the economy.
There are two
groups of losers in this arrangement:
in the unionized section of the economy, who are not legally allowed
to accept the bids of nonunion workers, and (2) all of the excluded
workers who cannot gain access to membership in the unions.
the claim of the union movement that it represents "the workers"
is one of the biggest con jobs in the history of Western civilization.
It is almost as great a deception as the phrase, "Iím from
the government, and Iím here to help." While it is true the
government may help one person for a period of time, thereby creating
dependence on the civil government, the government must penalize
other members of society for its ability to make the promise to
the individual who thinks the government is there to help him.
In a scarcity-governed
world, it is not possible to get something for nothing. This is
why the claim of the trade union movement, namely, that it represents
the workers in general, is a preposterous claim. It achieves above-market
wages and conditions for union members, but only because the union
can call upon the government to threaten violence against other
participants in the economy.
There is an
unspoken economic alliance between the trade unions and employers
in those sectors of the economy that are not under the dominance
of the trade union movement. Neither group ever discusses the nature
of the alliance. It would be too embarrassing. It would indicate
that, in the name of helping workers in general, trade unions hurt
the vast majority of workers. It would also indicate that, for those
businesses that are not unionized, the trade union movement is very
good for business. Those businessmen who are the beneficiaries of
this arrangement are not interested in explaining the nature of
the government subsidy. They are dependent upon the subsidy, which
is why they do not fight trade unionism in general. They only resist
trade union membership in their particular sector of the economy.
BADGES, AND GUNS
market economics is not taught in high schools, but only a pro-union
version of the labor market, most students never understand the
nature of the convenient alliance between the trade unions and businesses
in the nonunionized sectors of the economy. It is not in the self-interest
of unionized teachers in the nationís public high schools to present
the case for economic freedom as it applies to the labor markets.
Because it is not in their professional self-interest, teachers
who serve on each stateís textbook-screening committee do not adopt
textbooks in economics that present the labor market in the United
States as the product of government coercion for the benefit of
trade union members and employers in the nonunionized sectors of
union membership has fallen to under 10% of the private-sector labor
market, trade unions no longer have much effect in benefiting privileged
workers in this sector. Trade union membership benefits mainly those
workers who are employed by various levels of civil government.
Because the trade unions can mobilize workers to vote at state and
local levels, or at least they are widely believed to be able to
do this, state and local politicians have been afraid to challenge
the trade unions, and deny them their right of excluding nonunion
"collective-bargaining" is accurate, but only because
the collective involved is much smaller than the majority of workers.
It is only because the trade unions can call in government officials
with badges and guns to impose violence against employers who accept
bids from nonunion members that unions can achieve above-market
wages and working conditions for their members. The larger collective,
namely, workers who are excluded from the privileged monopoly of
union membership, are not represented by trade unions. There is
no collective-bargaining for them, precisely because there is government-mandated
collective bargaining for the privileged members of the working
class. If there were not far more members of the nonprivileged working-class,
trade union members could not gain above-market wages and conditions,
because unionized rivals would bid down wages and working conditions.
example of what the mid-19th century writer, Frederic
Bastiat, referred to as the fallacy of this thing not seen. In this
case, what is not seen by the general public is that the benefits
gained by members of the privileged, unionized sectors of the economy
are possible only because the government actively discriminates
against nonunionized workers. Those workers are not seen by the
public. The public does not understand the logic of economic cause-and-effect.
Future voters are deflected from any understanding of "pro-labor"
laws by unionized teachers, who use union-screened textbooks to
teach economic theory and economic history.
public school system is based on government coercion. The government
taxes the public to set up schools that are screened by high-level
members of the teaching profession, by university departments of
education, by various departments of education, and by the entrenched
bureaucracy of the Department of Education of the United States
government. The privileged self-certified educational bureaucracy
then establishes the standards for entrance into the guild.
The big problem
that the existing bureaucracy faces now is that the system has certified
so many teachers that there is a glut of teachers at the present
wage level and present classroom size level which has been imposed
on local school boards by the teachers union.
the strike threat is the major threat of the teachers unions, just
as it is with all other unions. The best way to break the teachers
union is to go outside of the union and accept offers from certified
teachers who are not members of the union, or who are willing to
cross the picket lines set up by the union.
that the school boards must tell the voters to tell the government
to stop sending men with badges and guns to stick in the bellies
of the members of the school boards. The school boards of America
should stand up for their right to hire people who are certified
as teachers, and who are willing to work for less money and teach
three times as many students. They should be allowed to accept offers
from entry-level teachers who are willing to work for less in order
to teach at all.
There is no
glut of teachers in America. There is no glut of anything in America.
There is only a glut of teachers at a government-mandated price
that is established by the threat of violence by the government.
There are people with badges and guns, and also bellies of school
district officials into which to stick those guns. This has created
the teacher glut . . . at present wages. There is no teacher glut
at market wages. This wage level is much lower than todayís wage
union knows that this is the case, if not in theory, then at least
in fact. This is why unions very rarely strike these days. They
know that strikes make the voters mad, because the voters want free
day care for their children, or at least half the day. They want
latchkey children, because they do not want to pay a market price
for private schools, or else they do not want to have mothers staying
home to teach their children from online curriculum materials.
who have children in school, a minority within the community, demand
that there must be free education paid for by taxpayers. In other
words, it is the fallacy of the thing unseen. What is seen is the
school system, with its football teams, air-conditioned buildings,
manicured lawns, and all the rest of it. What is not seen is the
huge volume of online material available for teaching, free of charge
or close to it, which parents can adopt to teach their children.
But, as more of these presently unseen alternatives become visible,
the case for coercive education will become less tenable.
From top to
bottom, the educational system is based on coercion. It is based
on minority groups coming to the majority in the name of the benefit
to society of continued coercion. It is all done in the name of
the children. But, you may have noticed, nobody ever asked the children
what they want. Nobody asks the children who are victims of bullying
in the schools if they would like an alternative. Nobody asked the
children in inner city schools if they would like an alternative.
The only people who are supposed to be asked what is good for the
children are members of a monopolistic guild that has used government
coercion to grant them high salaries and small classrooms.
There are teachers
in Chicago who are being paid $100,000+ a year to teach for eight
months. They are tenured, so they cannot be fired. They cannot be
fired because the contracts that the teachers union negotiated with
the Board of Education do not allow them to be fired. But if those
teachers had to teach 33 children in every class, six classes a
day, a lot of them would quit. As soon as one of them quits, he
can be replaced by an entry-level teacher who works for $50,000
a year to teach 33 students in the classroom. That can be done if
the school board establishes that the principals can expel juvenile
delinquents and non-learners. It is time for parents to go
back to the scene in Lean
on Me where principal Joe Clark throws out the hoodlums.
It is time
for the Chicago school board to refuse to bargain with teachers
union. Yes, it can maintain the illusion that it is bargaining,
in order to placate the government bureaucrats with badges and guns,
but in fact it should stall. It should make it clear to parents
that there is no teacher glut in the city of Chicago, and that every
teacher on strike could be replaced in a week with certified teachers
at far lower salaries and with far larger classrooms. The general
population of Chicago can be mobilized by effective public relations
to back up the Board of Education and the politicians elected in
Chicago if these officials take a stand against the teachers union,
which has used violence and the threat of violence to gain control
over who gets hired in the city of Chicago to teach the children.
I think the
politicians in Chicago will capitulate to the union. That will mean
that the inner-city students of Chicago will continue to be shortchanged
by the system. What we need is not Joe Clark, as portrayed by Morgan
Freeman, but Marva Collinsí husband, as portrayed by Morgan Freeman.
In that magnificent 1981 movie, The
Marva Collins Story, we learn of the gifted Chicago teacher,
Marva Collins, who set up a private school in the middle of the
ghetto, with her husbandís support. Her school began transforming
the lives of a generation of students whose parents had the wisdom
to pull them out of the Chicago public school system.
across the nation do as those parents did in Chicago, beginning
a generation ago, there is no hope for education in the United States.
It will get more expensive, and the quality of the education will
continue to fall.
definition of crazy is doing the same thing over and over when it
produces bad results. When dealing with the question of education,
voters in the United States are crazy. They continue to vote for
a system which is broken in every respect, and which is acknowledged
as being broken in every respect by the people who have broken it.
The system is subject to reform, but every reform has made it worse.
The system rewards incompetence, because it allows government agents
with badges and guns to establish the system, police the system,
and impose restrictions on anyone who would buck the system.
to the crisis in education in Chicago is not to break the strike.
It could be broken, but it should not be broken. The solution to
the crisis in education of Chicago is to let the teachers remain
on strike, and let the parents of the excluded children seek solutions
comparable to those offered by Marva Collins, beginning a generation
North [send him mail]
is the author of Mises
on Money. Visit http://www.garynorth.com.
He is also the author of a free 31-volume series, An
Economic Commentary on the Bible.
2012 Gary North
Best of Gary North