Saturday, September 08, 2007

Republicans Heart Teachers, But HATE Unions

I've been trying for a few days to figure out why the recent press release by the Republican Chair (see Phoneix's "Not for Nothing" blog), Barrington lawyer & State Republican counsel, Gio Cicione, bothers me so much, cause it does. It's not that I'm a stranger to the vitriolic rhetoric released on the national level. In the past decade, it reached the level of "de riguer" for Republican party officials.
I suppose the surprise is that it's reached here and struck on a more personal level. While not a current member of the NEA, I certainly have been in the position that many members now find themselves in - Sept. & no contract.
The angry, demeaning wordstream aimed at the Union and officials takes the form of being directed to the NEA. But substitute any union at all, and the spewing fountain of demeaning language will do. While this one-sided conversation did not mention things like pensions, overtime, seniority, etc., it could easily be substituted for any teacher-specific rhetoric.
Today in the "Newport Daily News" there was a letter from a Portsmouth senior (62 & disabled). She bemoans the fact that if you collect more than $733 in Soc. Security a month, you are not eligible for Medicaid or food stamps. Now she understands why people can end up living on the street. Then advice is offered to young people to "make sure you work for a company that guarantees a pension, not one that can cancel it at any time. My employers did this to me." And then the real kicker, "You must be very, very careful who you vote for." While the former is now impossible to do (thanks to recent federal legislation there are NO pension guarantees, let alone companies who feel obligated to even bother offering pensions), the last sentence certainly rings true enough.
The barbed insults thrown an at teachers regarding their leadership is meant to undermine faith in the Union. But it won't work. Never has. The teachers must be surprised to learn that they have absolutely no authority or control over the actions of their own officials and are pawns. Cicione also emphasizes union leadership’s tactics of authorizing an illegal strike hurts the reputation of teachers who get caught in the middle and have no authority to overrule their own union. “The NEA is breaking the law, and using both teachers and students as pawns for their political gain.”
Pawns? Blooming idiots? On our own we are intelligent, reasonable human beings, but when those Union leaders get ahold of us, we become brainless, obedient robots. The idea that the opposite is true, that in union we find the strength & the voice to express our views, is not even considered. Duh.
Even more ironic is the sudden manufactured concern of "creating chaos for families scrambling for child care arrangements at the last minute." Funny, affordable child care isn't often mentioned on the state Republican agenda.
Another dart that hits home is his concern with teachers supposedly "breaking the law" and wanting the government to file RICO charges against the NEA leadership. "RICO" charges are what Tony Soprano was always worried about, and what brought the "Teflon Don," down. Serious stuff.
Years ago my family was embroiled in civil court over an item that would be considered peanuts to most, but involved my families' livelihood. The case dragged on as they always do. While my family was victorious, it was costly, destroyed long-time relationships, and likely contributed to the sudden death of my Dad. I know the financial strain and tension even small cases can result in, let alone serious charges like RICO which are not only costly but can result in long jail terms.
The fact that a lawyer is making these charges does not escape unnoticed. A few lawyers in business use their legal knowledge like a sword & hammer to maniuplate those unable to offer resistance. Even though that may not be the case here, it is meant to intimidate while opening the pockets of the federal government to bring charges against those who will actually have to cough up funding.
I can't help but echo the senior's observation that elections are just around the corner and this is the time to become involved. I would hope that any candidate running against a Republican opponent, remember & use the Chair's statements & challenge them to reiterate their thoughts on his words. For those who often remark that there seems to be little difference between the Parties, especially on the State and Local levels, I am reminded of Texas columnist Molly Ivins words, "It's like, duh. Just when you thought there wasn't a dime's worth of difference between the two parties, the Republicans go and prove you're wrong."
And not one leading Republican official has murmered a public disclaimer of dissent. Not a one. A hat tip to blogger Justin Katz at Anchor Rising who did and Tom Shevling at R.I. Report, a former Republican who has disafilliated.
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