Teachers walking out in Colorado (see story here), a state with a Democratic governor and house, could be the biggest labor relations story of the nation-wide employee-led work stoppages.
State politicians, a vast majority of them Democrats, take union money and in return do what they can to protect union organizational interests, but do little to truly fight for funding and professional compensation structures for educators. The recession provided cover for those who really have no interest in changing the way public education employees are valued. It’s easy for recipients to lament with union donors over the lack of resources or demonize those that just don’t understand or care about how important it is to educate our kids.
But now, money is or soon will be available for increases in educator pay and instructional innovation. In New Mexico, Democrats will likely control the governorship, senate and house in 2019. Employee pay is just one of many problems facing the schools, but it is the biggest labor and employee relations problem. With money, there will be an opportunity to change the way employees are paid and establish legitimate expectations for the pay. There won’t be any excuse for those who have only offered words of support and encouragement to education employees over the last ten years. And there won’t be any excuse to the public if the changes don’t include some type of accountability standards.
The rank and file-led protests in five states – which highlight the difference between employee interests and union enterprise interests – will impact all states, create fear within union leadership, result in declining union membership, grow influential informal employee leaders, and make union-connected elected officials representing lower income families (who are questioning the quality of their children’s education) uncomfortable. In Colorado, where voters will have to decide just how much they value teachers and public education, politicians will have to take a very real and public stand in supporting or opposing tax increases (see more here).
As with all workplace issues, it will be interesting to see what happens.