October 12, 2011
Reprint – www.UnionsMatter.wordpress.com
Barbara Kestenbaum is a passionate union activist. Wherever there is a rally, demonstration, picket line with union members fighting for justice you will often find Barbara. In the following account she writes variably about her recent experience at a rally to save the jobs of essential public school workers.
As a retiree of DC-37 and former shop steward and union delegate for Local 372, I knew I had to be at a recent rally with hundreds of fellow union members including the UFT and TWU—as well as community activists, parents and members of the New York City Council. We came together to voice our objection to the Department of Education’s planned job cuts of 700 employees. These union members are the backbone of schools’ running efficiently; they are dedicated, productive and very much needed. Who are these workers and what do they do?
• Some visit the homes to work with parents to have them better understand their rights and obligations concerning the education of their children.
• They are school crossing guards who make sure children cross the street safely.
• They are school aides who work with teachers in the classroom, helping children read, and sometimes acting as interpreters for parents and teachers.
• And there are the lunchroom staff who make sure thousands of children are fed each day.
These workers earn their salaries! They care about New York City’s school children. It is a travesty of justice that their jobs are on the chopping block, while the Department of Education spends vast amounts of money on outsourcing for consultants who have nothing to do with the running of a school at the rally, Santos Crespo, President of Local 372 fervently stated this simple fact: “If just one percent of the $4.3 billion outsourced to the consultants were budgeted for the….Local 372 members’ salaries, there wouldn’t be any need for layoffs!”
He is so right! I have come to see that these layoffs are part of the effort to maintain America’s failed profit economy by busting unions and privatizing public education. Certain school administrators want to have our schools be run like a corporation. It’s not about the education of children at all. It’s all about putting public money into private pockets. In her commentary to the journal, The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known, Ellen Reiss, Aesthetic Realism Chairman of Education, explains the underlying reason why this is occurring:
“The effort to undo public education is, really, as reactionary as an effort to have this nation ruled again by a king. So why is it now taking place?….The desire to make public schools a source of private revenue, and, really, get rid of them altogether, is a phase of…the desire to undo an instance of justice that took centuries to attain, and turn it into a field for profit-making. We can ask: do some persons want to arrange for public education to fail, withhold funds from it, so they can say that it’s a flop and that schools should be run privately, for profit?”
When persons ask this question asked by Eli Siegel, “What does a person deserve by being a person?” the work that people do, like the members of Local 372, will be valued and respected the way they deserve to be.