We sanctify educators. How about if we pay them fairly?
A recent story about the Newton teachers strike quoted a parent lamenting that the “sacred” relationship with his children’s teachers had been challenged (“The Newton strike is over. Was it worth it?” Metro, Feb. 4). As we recover from the strike and continue recovering from the pandemic, I would implore my fellow Newton Public Schools parents to let go of that framing. It suggests that our children’s teachers should be saintly and selfless and that campaigning in their own financial interest can be seen as a violation.
In our capitalist society, we’ve no chance of protecting our schools if we keep believing that teachers, paraprofessionals, and aides are acting upon divine duty. Our high expectations are all too handy an excuse for their low compensation. Instead, let’s think of them as professionals in demanding roles — roles that are central to a functioning economy and society.
Calling unions’ work ‘militant’ is misleading and stigmatizing
The use of the term “militant” to describe the actions of the striking Newton teachers stigmatizes the peaceful efforts and sacrifices the Newton Teachers Association employed to secure a fair contract (“Teacher strife could extend beyond Newton: Communities brace for militant posture from frustrated unions,” Page A1, Feb. 4).
The term “militant,” which the head of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees used, implies an aggressively confrontational approach, suggesting a willingness to use force or coercion in pursuit of goals. This characterization of modern-day unions is misleading and unfairly tarnishes the reputation of unions, which are essential entities advocating for workers’ rights and fair labor practices.
The NTA fought to address workplace issues and negotiate better conditions for its members. Was the use of the term “militant” an attempt to sway the general public to perceive unions, on a broader level, as disruptive and resistant to compromise? Negatively framing unions in this way hinders constructive dialogue and collaboration and impedes a broader recognition of their crucial role in fostering a balanced, equitable work environment.
International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers
Teachers union leaders hinder healing by being sore winners
In their post-strike comments, Newton Teachers Association leaders showed a lack of grace and acknowledgement that now is the time to work together (“Teachers reach agreement in Newton, ending 2-week strike,” Page A1, Feb. 3). Ryan Normandin, a Newton South High School teacher and member of the union’s bargaining team, is reported as saying that the strike was about bigger issues than benefits and working conditions. Well, it shouldn’t have been.
Normandin said, “We taught our students not to be afraid that when those in power try to take away your rights, that they should stand up for themselves.” The NTA took away students’ rights to 11 days of education and made the strike a referendum on union power in the United States. NTA president Mike Zilles gave away the game when he said, “We are education leaders for our nation.”
This was first and foremost an attempt to show that the NTA was a big player, capable of bringing the city to its knees, just as the United Auto Workers did the auto companies.
All they really taught students was that it is OK to break the law when it serves your purpose, that it’s OK to disparage and criticize the motives of those you disagree with rather than confront their arguments, and that exercising raw political power, despite the financial burdens it creates for others, is more important than living within your means.
At least the union leadership could have had the grace to just take the win and not say it out loud.
Anger was misdirected — this was a fight for children
As a lifelong community member of the city of Newton, and as the mother of a schoolteacher, I witnessed the human cost of misunderstanding over the past two weeks. This local public school strike garnered national attention and became a microcosm of how posting and propagating harmful rhetoric can be costly. And it was witnessed by the population the fight was all about: children.
Instead of taking time to understand the basis of the strike as being over labor conditions and the insufficient funding of resources to serve the educational needs of all Newton students — something that is required by law — anger became misdirected.
The significant community support for the Newton Teachers Association was powerful and moving, and if the lessons of the strike are taught correctly, they will be invaluable for the city’s children.
This was not a victory for the mayor or the School Committee. This was a victory for the children — and a battle that could have been avoided 16 months ago had the adults in the room done the right thing.
Martha B. Lipson