« Previous Story | Front Page | Next Story »

The Pizza Man Delivers Solidarity

By Diane Wahto
Advocacy | February 21, 2011

working.gifWICHITA, Kan. - Those who remember Hill Street Blues, a 1980's police drama groundbreaking for its realism, remember that public defender Joyce Davenport called Captain Frank Furillo, "pizza man" during tender scenes between them. Fans of the show know that Furillo delivered, both on and off the job. Sunday, I called a pizza place in Madison, Wisconsin, Ian's Pizza, and after being on hold with the message that Ian's was closed and was taking orders only for delivery to the protesters at the Wisconsin Capitol, I talked to a nice guy who took my pizza order and laughingly assured that no Tea Partiers would get the pizza I ordered.

Doing this put me among "...people from 12 countries and 38 states [who] have rung up looking to help get free pizza to the Wisconsin protesters clustered in the Capitol. On Saturday, Ian's distributed more than 1,000 free slices and sent 300 pizzas to the Capitol. The trend continued on Sunday, as staff member fielded calls from as far away as Turkey, Korea, Finland, China, and Australia. The trend began when a mother of a University of Wisconsin student called in offering to donate $200 to feed the people occupying the Capitol. The pizza chain's postings on Twitter and Facebook soon led to so many donations that they had to shut down on Saturday night," according to the online journal Politico.

One pizza isn't going to go far feeding the 70,000 pro-union protesters who showed up over the weekend at the Wisconsin Capitol to get Wisconsin legislators and the governor to deliver on a decades-long commitment to union collective bargaining and due process rights. However, that one pizza along with the others delivered to the protesters is a huge symbolic message not only to Wisconsin legislators, but also to the people of Wisconsin, legislators of other states, and people defending their rights in this country and around the world.

As an NEA and KNEA member and activist ever since I did my student teaching in 1974, I understand the value of solidarity. I saw the benefits of that solidarity in the schools and on the campus where I taught. When I first started my career as a full time teacher at Winfield High School, the teachers had voted to stack their contracts rather than accept the unilateral contract offered by the board. Education Association leaders gathered the contracts of tenured teachers and put them in a safety deposit box for safekeeping until the board of education decided to come back to the table for negotiations. I was told that, as a new, nontenured teacher, I should sign my contract and turn it. The Winfield EA eventually prevailed in getting the board back to the negotiating table. I knew then that the Education Association the place for me to be.

At Winfield, where I started my teaching career, and at Butler Community College, where I ended my career, I served as the president of the local Education Association and on the negotiations team. I did this in order to make sure I had some control over my own career, as well as to make sure all teachers could work under the best possible conditions.

The year I was elected to be president of the Butler EA, we were embroiled in difficult negotiations that had reached, if not a legal impasse, an impasse in reality. It was May and everyone was preparing for graduation. All BCC faculty members were required to attend graduation garbed in caps and gowns with symbols of their degrees and majors. It's quite an impressive sight to see students followed by faculty members in their academic regalia cross the campus to the gymnasium for the ceremony. That year, the early '90s, came after the Polish Solidarność (Independent Self-governing Trade Union "Solidarity") movement, under the leadership of Lech Walesa, had successfully overthrown the Warsaw Pact government fostered by the USSR.

During our pre-negotiation research, EA leaders found that the faculty members at Butler, the second largest community college in Kansas, were being paid the lowest salary among the state community colleges. We decided it was time to take drastic action to change that situation.

Under the direction of the late Dave Kratzer, newspaper adviser and EA strategist, we started our own Solidarity movement, complete with a huge Solidarność banner and buttons that read "Solidarity II."

My first act as EA president was to meet with faculty members before the graduation process to take a vote on wearing white armbands on our black robes as a symbol of our salary demands on the board. One of our members had volunteered to distribute fliers to those attending the graduation and Dave's journalism students were busy cutting up sheets, assuming the vote was going to be positive.

I would be lying if I said I felt calm about this action. We were all putting our jobs on the line. According to Kansas law, public employees are not allowed to strike, but the law does allow informative picketing. Even so, we all respected the institution of the college and the solemnity of the graduation ceremony. Most of us loved our jobs and we all cared about our students. I was almost sick as I presided over that meeting. The vote was unanimous--we were going to wear the white arm bands. We advised the non-tenured faculty members not to do so.

We went to the student union to get ready for the graduation procession. There, students tied the white strips on our arms and we all walked across the campus. As I looked across the lines of faculty members with the white arm bands on, I got tears in my eyes at the bravery of those people. Granted, no one was going to harm us physically, but we had no idea of what the outcome of this action would be.

As it turned out, we got the highest raise ever in the history of the campus. Not too long after that, the college got a new president who worked with faculty to implement a system of mutual gains bargaining. After that, faculty and administers, rather than sit across the table from each other, sat around the table with each other, sharing information and opinions that would help us come to an equitable contract. College administrators and staff had more of a stake in our negotiations than was readily apparent as everyone on campus got the same raises and benefits that faculty did. In effect, we were negotiating for everybody.

Those days are long over for me. However, dI'm a lifetime NEA member and a member of KNEA-Retired. It is still important to me to support teachers and all public employees retain their rights and benefits.

According to a recent survey, despite propaganda to the contrary, pay and benefits for public employees in Wisconsin lag behind those of private employees, according to a press release (pdf) from The Economic Policy Institute. To summarize the report: "...the data indicates that state and local government employees in Wisconsin are not overpaid. Comparisons controlling for education, experience, organizational size, gender, race, ethnicity, citizenship, and disability reveal that employees of both state and local governments in Wisconsin earn less than comparable private sector employees. On an annual basis, full-time state and local government employees in Wisconsin are under-compensated by 8.2% compared with otherwise similar private sector workers. This compensation disadvantage is smaller but still significant when hours worked are factored in. Full-time public employees work fewer annual hours, particularly employees with bachelor's, master's, and professional degrees (because many are teachers or university professors)."

Public employees and their unions will continue to be under attack as extreme right-wing politicians work to end workers' rights and benefits. In the meantime, the wealthy still pay less in taxes comparatively than these working people pay. As public employees lose their pay, benefits, and even their jobs, citizens will begin to lose services and their quality of life will deteriorate.

Public employees are not the problem. Their unions are not the problem. The problem is that right-wing extremist politicians are bringing ideology into play as they attack the wrong people in order to solve our economic problems.


Great article (and I agree with you), but the link you've provided for "The Economic Policy Institute" does not appear to be working.

Thanks for telling us about the link, David. It should be working above, now, and also here:

Thanks for fixing the link, Pam. I didn't realize it didn't work.

While I honor your work in helping teaching staff get better pay and benefits thru collective bargaining I do not think you appreciate why the Wisconsin governor is trying to end collective bargaining.

The reason they are doing so is that the in place agreements leave no room for local municipal and school districts to negotiate themselves out of the economic mess they are in. The union imposed rules are just too stringent and in this case, everything needs to be negotiated. If that means cutting staff, salaries, and benefits that has to happen.

Diane, you were on one side of the table but imagine being on the other side? What if you were a school disitrct administrator, you had a set amount of money available, and you have to spend it accordingly. If 90% of your expenses are teacher/staff salaries and benefits those have to be negotiated. This law will allow that whereas before it didn't.

The overall goal is to balance the states budget. Like a family they cannot spend the money they dont have and unlike the federal government, they cannot just keep printing money and borrowing to cover dept. So they must either raise taxes or cut expenses.

You said that your negotiating eventually became a situation where both sides worked together. That can still happen here.

This illustrates the need of progressives to support businesses that share our views.

Brad--First, I know what the governor said about his motivation for ending collective bargaining rights. I think his reasoning is BS. During any bargaining session, both sides have to agree, and if they don't, a mediator is called in to look at the facts and settle the issues.

Obviously, you missed what I said about Mutual Gains Bargaining. We all sat around the table WITH each other. We all, adminstrators and faculty alike, had the same facts to look at. We worked together on the data to come to a resolution about money and working conditions. By the way, negotiations isn't just for setting money issues. We also negotiated non-money items. I understand from people who are still teaching that MGB is still being used at the community college.

The year we got the 9% raise, we had the data to support our claims. Other years, we setttled for no raises or small raises, or took non-money items in exchange for money. Despite propaganda to the contrary, public employees aren't greedy guts out to bankrupt institutions and state governments. We would like some shared sacrifice, however.

Negotiations means just that--both sides negotiate. If the state budget needs to be balanced, that information should be brought to the table. Cutting pay and positions shouldn't be unilaterally forced on the employees.

Working together works only when both sides have a stake in doing so. If one side has no power and the other side has all the power, neither side has any motivation to work with the other side.

I have information now that the Kochs are behind all this union busting. Their main motivation is to avoid paying taxes. If you need the research on that issue, I can get it. In my opinion, the Kochs should make some sacrifices as the public employees are being asked to do.

Public employees have some unique advantages in the negotiating process. For one, they know if they strike they cannot be fired and the government cannot shut down. Whereas in a corporation they can fire strikers or shut down a company and then nobody gets paid. Plus another unique advantage is the unions often control both sides of the table because union dues go to campaign contributions (usually for democrats)so they can get the person in power elected (or not). A big example of this was out in California the University employees union got a governor elected wheras upon election, he signed a bill requiring ALL state university employees do join and pay union dues.

With corporations only in places where a union owns stock in the company and can sit on their board do they have the power to be both labor and management.

At the local level union workers can support candidates for city, county, and school boards and then those persons can give the union what they want.

Over the years this union, government relation has gotten out of hand where the employee unions get everything they want and I feel this legislation is needed to allow government officials some power back.

Plus, this is a democracy. Change happens thru the ballot box. Republicans with an agenda were elected and as Obama said "the election is over, live the results". In upcoming years the unions will have the ability to re-elect democrats to get back their power.

As for the Koch's, call them bad but they do create jobs and one reason for companies to locate in Kansas is our lower labor costs due to Kansas being a right to work state.

Finally I feel the democrats going into hiding rather than stay and try to negotiate a bill is pretty poor behavior. However in the next election cycle democrats will have a tough time explaining where they were during this process.

Brad, I need to lean toward Diane's side in this debate. I served 12 years on a Community College Board. I can guarantee there was plenty of coverup on both sides of the table. The faculty had not been held accountable, the administration had depended on the ease of raising the mill levy and the board had been more of a cheering section than a governing board. We had tenured teachers that probably shouldn't have been allowed to stay long enough to get tenure. The board and administration was convinced they couldn't do anything because of tenure.

When I asked for documentation on infractions, they had none. The truth was that some of the problems were purely personality clashes. The idea that someone with seniority or tenure can't be fired is not in any union contracts. The union certainly tries to make it hard and , sometimes, nearly impossible. But, if you have documented evidence of neglect or incompetence, the person can be fired. The Faculty Alliance had their professional negotiator and the board hired their professional lawyer. The result was that both sides spent money for the two professionals to out lawyer one another.

Mutual Gains Bargaining demands complete and open honesty for both sides. The most successful negotiation period we had, was when I convinced the board to be open and honest with the financial figures and make the bottom line offer and allow the faculty to decide how they wanted it to be distributed. Money has been used as the center of negotiations, and primarily that has been because neither side has usually been honest and up front. When both sides are forced to acknowledge dollar limits and values of perks and benefits (ins., vacation, sick leave, sabbatical, flexible schedules, etc.) the negotiation process moves forward.

Governor Walker is using money as the culprit in the negotiations. Tax cuts before negotiations started doesn't indicate honest financial concerns. Making unions the bogey man appears to be more his goal than saving any money. Faceless corporations where no one is held accountable individually is one of the biggest reasons that the working class must have collective representation. The idea that unions have an unfair advantage is nonsense. Corporations, most likely, contribute more campaign money and perks to the politicians than the unions do. When the Supreme Court gave corporations the same standing as individuals, the balance of power shifted even more.

The Koch brothers, in Kansas, haven’t shown any great interest in the welfare of the masses in society. They inherited a pretty good start and have done quite well on their own. They have benefited from the protective powers of government. They are quick to oppose protective power of government for any entities or persons not contributing to their empire.

Government, corporations, and unions are faceless entities, without soul or conscience. They are only as good or righteous as the morality and ethics of society demand.

Brad--In Kansas, as in many other states, public employees are forbidden by law to strike. Public employees who go on strike can be fired. I know police officers sometimes use the "blue flu" strategy as way to get around the strike ban, but in Kansas no teachers, or other public employees, have gone on strike.

The only way the teachers control "both sides of the table" is if the administrators who served as board negotiators will benefit from faculty negotiations, as they did at Butler. My dean was an NEA member, but he never got involved in our negotiations. As for Association members getting people elected to public office, yes, the NEA-PACs work for that goal. In Kansas, we are seldom successful.

The Kochs create jobs. They also create pollution that they would like to continue to create unhindered. Here in this state and elsewhere they have, through their arms, the Tea Party, Americans for Prosperity, and Kansas Policy Institute, fostered a hatred for public employees unprecented in its virulence. It baffles me how people can so easily be turned against those who spend days in the classroom with their children, the people who keep their cities and towns safe, who risk their lives fighting fires, and who work in the prisons keeping prisoners under control. I've tried to figure out the motivation behind this hatred and I think it's greed, pure and simple. The Kochs and others like them don't want to pay their share of the cost of a thriving culture. They don't give a hang about the average Joe or Jane who live and work in the communities of Kansas or the nation.

Right now, there are so many myths circulating about public servants it would be a full time job to counter them. Ken has dealt well with the myth that purports that teachers who belong to the Education Association can't be fired. I experienced first hand the firing of a member of the Association where I worked. One of the principals I worked under tried to fire a teacher there, but he failed because, in violation of state law, he failed to bring charges in a timely manner against the teacher. In fact, he wanted to fire me because he didn't agree with the way I lived my life or the fact that as a journalism adviser, I encouraged my students to be agressive in their investigative journalism. After years of getting good evaluations and my students winning awards at state journalism contests, I started getting really poor evaluations one year. Common sense should tell anybody that he was out to get me. I had taught at that school one year longer than I planned. My plan was to leave that very demanding job after my youngest son graduated from high school, but I didn't. After I knew this principal had me set up for termination, I weighed whether to say and fight (I could have won) or to leave as I had originally planned. I left, went to a dream job at the community college (where people there already knew how back this principal was), got the news the next year that this prinicipal got fired--good riddance--and lived happily ever after working for people who appreciated my strong work ethic. And yes, I was and am still active in the Education Association.

Ken, I always appreciated good board members like you who didn't make enemies of faculty negotiators.

Ken and Diane,
Those are all good points but remember, we live in Kansas, a right to work state, not Wisconsin. Unions in other states have unheard of powers compared to those in Kansas Your experience with negotiations might not be the same as there.

And again, we live in a democracy and the people of Wisconsin voted in Republicans who they knew would work to break the monopoly of the public employee unions. If this doesnt work out voters can go and make changes in the next election.

Yes Brad, I know I live in Kansas. In Kansas where the $100k income folks think their interests are best served by the $1,000k folks. Little do they know, but they are falling farther and farther from the top. In Kansas where the majority of people are employees rather than employers. In Kansas where, apparently, people think the wealthy folks create jobs for the benefit of the working class. In Kansas, right in the middle of the Bible Belt, where Christianity is more talk than action. In Kansas where union leaders can be corrupt just like Corporation Executives, small business operators, employees, preachers, teachers, and in whatever category you find human beings. Honesty just doesn't seem to be humanity's long suit, regardless geographic location.

I'm proud to be a Kansan, in spite of all the faults I see, in myself as well as others. I'm proud to be a Kansan where we still have cleaner air, more open space, and in Kansas where we can still trust most of our neighbors. In Kansas where I think good people out number bad people.

I was in no way trying to be rude.

I was just trying to make the point that your experience on the board of a small 1500 student community college in Northwestern Kansas is probably not the same as those in other areas like Madison Wisconsin.

I'm a former teacher and NEA member myself and I totally understand having problems with principals and needing the union to protect your job. And what teacher hasn't had similar problems? It's the nature of the profession I guess.

Brad--I heard in a news report on NPR today that in most states, members of public employee unions are barred from striking, right to work state or not. According to that report, laws governing bargaining are similar to the laws in Kansas.

As for Republicans winning in the 2010 election, that doesn't mean we can't disagree with them. They won in Kansas too, but I often disagree with the winners. In fact, I voted for Barack Obama, but I often disagree with his politicies and I let him know about it. Being elected to office in America doesn't give a person the right to be a dictator.

I had problems with only one adminstrator during my 35+ years of teaching. As I said earlier, he didn't approve of the way I lived. I could have kept my job if I'd cared enough about it to stay and fight for it. As a journalism teacher, I never had a moment's break from the work and I needed to get away from it, so I left. However, I was grateful to have KNEA on my side.

If you were a teacher, you should know how little power we actually have. Our only power comes in collective action.

Ken--Sadly, you're correct in your assessment of the state of the State of Kansas. Between those who think it's just fine to kill abortion providers and those who want to take rights away from union members, we're in a wasteland. As a native Kansan, I also love the place. As a humanist, I hate to see what we have come to in this state that at one time was a good place to be for those who believed in freedom and populist politics.

Brad, I am from Michigan (a NON-right to work state). My Father, Uncles and Grandfather are/were in Unions. They would sure be interested in sitting down and talking to you about how Unions work.

My Father is in a Laborer Union (He digs ditches and puts in Pipelines).

They don't have unheard of power, and the money they collect is from Middle Class people that goes to support a political party that votes in favor of Middle Class people.

The Government has no right to take away collective bargaining.

As for the budget in WI, it was balanced before the Governor gave bucko dollars in tax benefits to his buddies. The one who funded his campaign. So now he is balancing it on the backs of Middle Class people.

Also, this data is interesting;

Only 5 states do not have collective bargaining for educators and have deemed it illegal. Those states and their ranking on ACT/SAT scores are as follows: South Carolina (...50th); North Carolina (49th); Georgia (48th); Texas (47th); & Virginia (44th). Wisconsin -- which has collective barganing for teachers -- is ranked 2nd in the USA.

au contraire, Brad. Good is good and bad is bad, no matter the society or geographic location.

NW KS is subject to the same faults in humanity as anywhere else. A 1,500 student body has support staff, faculty, deans, administrators, board members, and public supporters just like a 15,000 or 115,000 student body. All those individuals have the same propensity for good or bad. They all have distinctively local problems as well as problems common to all schools, regardless of size or location.

I have no perception of your being rude. I'm not naive enough to think my opinions are the last word in any discussion or debate. Neither am I a youngster who hasn't been involved in family, small town, or big town politics. I belonged to the Teamsters Union and the Machinest Union. I have dealt with the KNEA. I've been active in the Farmers Union, National Farmers Organization, Farm Bureau Association, and various other Marketing Associations and Purchasing Associations. All those organizations are only as honorable as the actuve membership. And, quite frankly, they have all been as honorable as the entities on the other side of the bargaining or business table.

I have no formal college degrees (not even a single college credit hour), but I've sat in the front row of the classroom of life and the school of hard knocks, for many many years. I've been an independent farmer for over 50 years and dealt with employees and labor problems.

It appears to me that Governor Walker and the Republican legislature of Wisconsin are attempting to neuter the viability of unions to compete with Government or Corporate powers. They are claiming all the financial and social problems are the fault of union members and their leadership. According to news reports the government has passed the volunteer lowering of compensation of the public servants into the hands of the wealthy through generous rebates or tax reform measures.

I just read the entire conversation here. I celebrate all of you for the commitment it takes to listen and respond while still trying to stand up for your values, and the commitment it takes to turn your values into public argument. Democracy begins, always, as a conversation. For that reason I ultimately resist the ruse Gov. Walker is using in Wisconsin -- because he has made it clear he wants no conversation about the budget, even when unions have signaled a willingness to concede on both pay and benefits. Winning an election does have consequences, but it has consequences for the winners too. Winning an election means that you partiticpate in the process from a particular starting position, and you are placed in that process by the voters; it does not mean that you have some divine right to avoid or destroy the process itself. The voters in Wisconsin placed the governor and the legislature in a position to propose a budget, explain themselves, and legislate through hard choices and compromise and consensus. They could have improved their budget situation through shared sacrifice while honoring the voters with an honest approach. Instead they passed tax cuts for a few people first, and then sought to destroy the public voice of public workers with no effort to negotiate. Elections do have consequences, but dismantling the democratic process that begins after the election does not honor voters.

Thanks to all of you for your input on this issue. I realize I have a one-sided view, so it's good for me to hear a variety of other views. The key word here is "democracy," and it seems that Gov. Walker has forgotten that he still lives in a democracy. Further, I see the union protestors as being as legitimate as the Tea Party folks in their demands. At least they're demanding something tangible rather than making accusations relating to the legitimacy of a person's right to be in office.

My dad was a Teamster, Ken.

Now I'm off to the state Democratic meeting. Christina, I may see you there.

I think Walker could have given in a litle like requiring the increases in insurance premiums or making the cutting of union agreements only temporary. Say 4 years or so.

OTOH I think it was in bad taste when democrats ran away from the state.

Plus I feel the behavior of union members turning into thugs leaves people with a bad taste for unions. In this age of the internet the placards showing profanity or inciting violence will be remembered.

And how will they govern now? After this vote is done and gone other votes will come up on things where compromise is going to be needed. Dems and Reps will have to reach across party lines to get things done. Sadly the behavior on both sides will make that much harder in the future.

I hope Kansas never gets this divided.

Thanks to the Kochs, Kansas is already this divided. As to the identity of the thugs, I think the Kochs and their ilk are acting in a sluggish manner unseen in this country since the end of the 19th century. The corporations have received tax cuts and CEOs have received bonuses, and yet the unemployment rate is still high. It's a myth that rewarding the rich will create more jobs. It didn't happen under Reagan, it didn't happen under W, and it's not happening now.

Darrell, it was good to talk to you this weekend.

Ah yes, the entitlement mentality is alive and well. Their sure is a stark difference between the union protests we’ve seen as of late in Wisconsin and the Tea Party rallies that were held last August in Washington – one side civil, and the other just plain-old-nasty. Collective bargaining is fraudulent and immoral when the bargainer (union thugs) is the one who donated to and elected the negotiator on the other side of the table (kick-back city). Unfortunately, labor unions, as we know them today, have become blood-sucking parasites. Question: what is going to happen when the parasite “host” becomes exhausted?

(“It’s a myth that rewarding the rich will create more jobs. It didn’t happen under Reagan . . . ” Ah yes, banality again tries to work some magic.)

Jonathan--I attended a rally in support of the Wisconsin union on Saturday in Topeka. Not one thug showed up, nor did anyone bring a weapon. There were no signs depicting people Nazis or witch doctors, even though there were anti-Koch signs. People were well behaved, one speaker calling the few tea baggers in attendance "our brothers."

Mostly, we were public servants, such as teachers, fire fighters, police officers, social workers, prison guards--well, you get the picture. People who work with other people's kids or who keep us safe and save our lives when it's necessary. There were a few Teamsters and Machinist Union representatives in the crowd. My dad was a Teamster and by his example I experienced first hand the benefits of union membership.

In what way are we parasites? We go to work every day to earn our wages, some of which are shamefully low. We pay taxes. We pay into our own pension plans. We raise our families and contribute to the communities in which we live. We aren't aliens. We're your neighbors, the people you sit next to in church, the people who spend our money at the grocery stores and other businesses in your community. In what way are we different from you? And, no rewarding the rich won't create more jobs. It only rewards the rich. If rewarding the rich created more jobs, we wouldn't have the problem with joblessness that we have now. When are the rich going to take their tax cuts and bailouts and hire people instead of giving their CEOs bonuses?

Johnathon, let's talk about entitlement. Corporations such as the Koch Brothers pay millions upon millions of dollars to GOP campaigns. Corporations such as Pizza Hut, Walmart, ect.. pay their workers 8.00 per hour and expect them to surivive on forty hours?

I have to make up for that in my taxes when I have to pitch in for THEIR employees food stamps, medicaid, medicare, ect...Check out the facts on Walmart, their employees soak up a HIGH rate of services in your area. Yet the CEO makes billions of dollars? Why should my tax dollars go to pay for the workers so CEO's can get a 20 million dollar bonus?

A person who works 40 hours a week should be able to pay their bills, plus have a little savings for retirement. I don't care if they work at McDonalds.

I am tired of paying more into taxes because corporations refuse to pay a living wage. Why do these corporations feel entitled to these services for their employees?

There use to be a thing called, corporate responsibility. Those days are gone. (Not all corporations are like this, but many are)

You are so right, Christina.

On wages, on one hand I want to agree with you because I for one have had to work at WalMart, McDonalds's and other low wage jobs.

But, OTOH, those jobs were good opportunities as a young person to get a first job and to gain workplace experience. I learned to come to work on time, listen to a boss, and be responsible for a job. If those places did have to pay higher wages they could not afford new workers plus prices would be sky high.

As for WalMart and McD's, yes they have low beginning wages but if your a good worker they recognize it and you can work your way up into a good paying management position with good wages, benefits, stock options, and retirement. And unlike many other careers, one need not a college degree.

We’ve had this discussion (the dratted rich, tax cuts, job creation, etc.) before, and you just don’t seem to get it, or, because of your inept ideology, you don’t “want” to get it. The unemployment rate is still high because of “fear” in the private sector – fear of what this Marxist President and left-leaning Senate is going to do to the business climate in the future, and fear from the impending tax hikes and regulations that Obamacare and Cap n’ Trade is going to impose on businesses. Therefore, businesspersons are setting on their money for now.

It sounds like you despise, or even hate the rich and successful who have worked hard to experience the American dream. I can hear it in your words. When it comes to business and the economy, I’m afraid you’re clueless.

Christina; your comment sounds a lot more like class warfare and less about entitlement talk.

But let’s talk about your third stanza, “A person who works 40 hours a week . . .” That person should be able to pay bills and save as long as they budget and live within their means. Just remember, that document, signed on 7/4/1776, says that we have the unalienable right to the “pursuit” of happiness – it’s not guaranteed.

Ya know, it’s real simple. If there’s a corporation that you think is unethical or immoral, then don’t go there. Don’t buy any of their products or services, and don’t ask them for a job application. Hit em’ where you think it hurts – their pocket books. If enough people agree with you, then over time they’ll be out of business.

I'll say it again, we need low wage jobs to give employment to the youth, for part timers, and to help people who need basic work experience.

Christina, a person would need to make around $30k a year to do what you are saying and there is no way a company can afford to give that high a wage to a beginning, inexperienced worker. I consider minimum wage to be a "training wage".

If you look at Europe and other countries that have the wage and benefit laws you describe you'll see youth unemployment rates to be sky high. Teen unemployment is easily over 50% and unemployment even for college grads in their 20's can be over 30%. This is part of the reason for the recent unrest there and most of those protesting are the youth. Youth, frustrated with society and with plenty of time on their hands is a definition of trouble waiting to happen.

From Jonathan--"Christina; your comment sounds a lot more like class warfare and less about entitlement talk."

The old class warfare bugaboo once again rears its ugly head. After all other arguments fail, that's the argument supporters of the rich fall back on. Yes, I agree. Class warfare is taking place. The victims of that warfare are not the rich--they're way beyond being hurt by the likes of school teachers and fire fighters--it's those in the middle class, people who will soon find their ability to be an equal participant in this society severely curtailed.

I don't despise the rich. I've known a few rich people and I think they're pleasant enough. However, your claim that the rich "earned" their riches is incorrect in most cases. The Kochs, Charles and David, inherited their riches from their father Fred. He earned his riches by working as an engineer in the Soviet Union. He had to go there after he got in trouble with the law because he ripped off a patented engineering process from another U. S. engineer.

And Brad, what is this about young workers? Christina is referring to people who have families to support and bills to pay. It's true--young people need "starter" jobs. I worked as a clerk in a dimestore and as a waitress when I was a kid and I developed some good work habits at those jobs. But once I became an adult, got a college degree, and had kids to support, I needed to move beyond a starter job. Joining the NEA helped me gain the salary and the benefits my kids and I needed to live, not high on the hog, but a decent life. Even so, I had to work a second job to supplement my teaching salary.

Both you and Jonathan seem to have a punitive view of public servants. I'm really puzzled as the origin of that view. Did you have problems with your teachers when you were in school? Did you have run-ins with police officers? I just don't understand this hatred toward those of us who have given our lives to work that makes other people's lives better and safer. I knew as a teacher I would never get rich. I didn't. However, I wanted to be able to support my children and have some way to survive in my old age without having to depend on them. I've achieved that. My husband and I aren't rich now, but we aren't living in the street asking for handouts. We paid into Social Security and Medicare all our working lives in order to have something to fall back back on after we retired. I paid into a pension fund for the same reason. So why the hatred against people like me? Why should be punished for doing what we were supposed to do?

I loved working and I continued to work long past retirement age. Everything I have I've earned by going to work and giving my heart and soul to my job. There's absolutely no reason for me and others like me to apologize for the good things that have come from our work.

By the way, I need to correct some myths about teachers and their work conditions. First, we don't leave school at 3 p.m. most days. If we do, we take papers to grade home with us and lesson plans to prepare. We often spend our weekends supervising and sponsoring student activities. During the summer, we have to take college classes, at our own expense, to keep our teaching certificates current.

Our pay is paid on a nine-month school year salary, but is spread out over twelve months. We DON'T get paid for the months we don't work. When I left full time teaching, I was earning as much as my truck driver dad was bringing in with his retirement. My work load included two and sometimes three overload classes. Most community college instructors teach overload classes for the pittance of extra money that they earn.

You can call me and others in my profession parasites as much as you want, but I can guarantee you it takes a tough person with a lot of stamina to be a teacher. Most people can't hack it.

Diane, I really respect the way you have stayed with this conversation thread and taken the time to illuminate your views. Bravo!

So how can we differenciate between starter jobs for teens, jobs for part timers, and jobs designed to be full time careers? And what about jobs that companies have at the lower end but could lead to better paying jobs as one moves up from worker to say crew chief to say shift manager to store manager and so on?

Example: Hallmark has several low end, low paying jobs that people must work at for at least a year before they can move up. Hallmark wants to see who is willing to get really dirty, do the crappy jobs, and be responsible before thye move them into better paying positions. Same at UPS where everyone starts on the docks doing the back breaking, exhausting job of loading packages before they can move onto a good paying job like being a driver.

As for teachers I used to be one, my wife IS one, so I do have respect - for the POSITION. However I know many tenured staff many times are just holding on and arent nearly as dedicated. Plus teachers in Johnson County start at $32k and with a Masters plus 5 years make about $50k. That is NOT poverty wages. Plus not all teachers take summer classes (tax deductible) in fact, many say the best 3 things about teaching are June, July, and August. (I had one teacher friend who spent his summers going on long trips, like hiking the Appalachian trail.) Not to mention how many other jobs do you get 2 weeks off at Christmas, plus spring break, plus 6 federal holidays off?

I'd like to also add I dont see why school librarians make twice as much as librarians at public libraries or why each school needs its own nurse who makes with benefits easily $50k a year.

Diane; I’ve been in the middle class all my life without the help of labor unions, and I never once felt as though my ability to be an equal participant in society would ever be compromised, or as you put it, severely curtailed. Therefore, I think you should speak for yourself.

Do you really think that most of the wealth in this country hasn’t been earned? Do you think there are more Charles and David Koch stories out there than Bill Gates and Steve Jobs stories? Good lord. You’re right; class warfare does have an ugly head to it.

I never once said I hated you (Diane) or any other public servant, and no, I’ve never had any significant problems with teachers or the police (fyi; my wife is an elementary school teacher). I despise the overall, corrupt, labor union mentality as an entity that is representing public servants and organized labor.

I’m getting tired with this, so I give you the final word.

Ha ha ha. You're tired? Go take a nap. Drink some milk. Eat some cookies. And enjoy your uncompromised middle class life. I will enjoy my compromised lower middle class life that my corrupt parasite thug participation in a labor union (in Kansas, it's not even really a union) has given me.

As a former teacher I can tell you being a teachers union member is a kind of neccessary evil. In schools there are alot of egos and the leadership like principals and superintendents and even school boards can come and go. It's not uncommon to have a great principal you get along with great and the next year they get a new one with some big idea you disagree with and they try to get you fired. A union can also protect a teacher from parents with alot of incluence who try to go around you. I remember a case over in the Piper school district where a teacher failed a group of student for plaigerism and the school board, because of parental pressure, tried to get her to change.

In teaching also your seniority and tenure are tied to your one district and if you desire to move to another you go back down to the bottom of the list so teachers are forced to stick it out in their one district and hope for change.

So dont totally bash teacher unions.

Brad--I remember that Piper case. It made me heartsick that the teacher had so much pressure put on her. I taught journalism at Winfield High School and without KNEA behind me, I would have been in trouble all the time. In Kansas, students are guaranteed freedom of the press by state law and as the adviser I had to honor that. Unless, of course, they wanted to print libelous material or use language that was out of bounds. My students were diligent in ferreting out stories that made one of my principals extremely unhappy and I had to go to the principal's office on a fairly regular basis. Fun times.

I never let my KNEA membership allow me to get by with poor teaching. One thing I did do, though, was to tell my kids not to go into teaching. The pay is low in most places, the job is wearing (despite what people think it doesn't end at 3 p.m. or in the summer), and dealing with disgruntled parents can be a bummer. However, I found it rewarding and I have fond memories of wonderful students.

My kids didn't become teachers. My one son who taught some classes at KU hated it. Another son teaches geology classes t KU, but that's not his main job. They knew from living with me how frustrating a teacher's life is.

I wouldnt dissuade people from going into teaching. Teachers play the poverty card alot but the pay isnt bad. As I said in Johnson County teachers make between $32 and $50k and some go much higher. I'm not lieing, I've seen BMW's and Jaguars parked in the teachers parking lot at some Blue Valley elementary schools (granted having a lawyer or Dr. spouse helps). Plus their is the fact that where else is one going to get a job with a degree in history? That goes for other areas like music, art, drama, english - and if you forgive me - journalism. I know the last as a fact because a friend got laid off at the Kansas City Star but found work in teaching.

I think whats driving part of this anti-teacher stuff is a kind of class or job envy. Many people, especially in this hard hit economy, make less money, have fewer benefits, and have less time off than teachers yet they feel they work just as hard. It doesnt help that the school PTA's keep begging parents for money all the time and the schools keep charging more for fees every year. Many students in the Blue Valley district spend over $1500 a year in fees. And if you want your kid to get playing time on a Blue Valley soccer team - you bet your going to give money to the booster club.

Again, that just leads to resentment of the schools and thus teachers get the blame.

Brad--I have to agree with you to an extent. However, my kids, who went into other professions, earn a whole lot more money than I ever did as a teacher. I suppose every profession has its own frustrations and a lot of my frustrations went away once I started teaching at the community college, but I really did want my kids to do something that didn't suck the life out of them like teaching did me. Don't get me wrong. I loved my students, but being a journalism adviser was a never-ending job. Even the summers were taken up with finishing the yearbook because we didn't have time to get it all done in the regular school year. You're right about certain degree fields being confined to careers in education--even journalism. I don't really know what the purpose of a journalism curriculum is anymore, even though a few of my students have had careers in journalism.

What most people don't seem to realize is that teachers get paid for nine months of work. That pay is divvied up into 12 pay checks because it's difficult otherwise to get through the summer. So while it looks like teachers are being paid to get summers off, they aren't. Also, most of us have to take classes during the summer to keep our licenses current.

You do have a good point though. Teachers are the most visible symbol of a school and if there is resentment, teachers are on the receiving end for sure. I'm kind of puzzled about the high end cars teachers drive. When I would look around the parking lot, most teachers were driving low end cars. Of course, if a teacher did marry a doctor or lawyer (not all doctors and lawyers earn exhorbitant salaries either, by the way,) he or she probably would be able to drive an expensive car.

Not that it matters. I still drive a used Toyota and my husband drives an ancient Mazda. I'm not much into material things, so I doubt if I'm going to be driving a Mercedes-Benz any time soon. What I really want is a Mazda Miata.

I'm a little puzzled about this thread. Other people besides me have posted things about the Topeka rally last week, but my blog seems to be the only one that has garnered this much attention. I know I didn't say anything any more procative than anyone else, so I can't figure it out.

Schools in Johnson County are different than say those in western Kansas. About the cars - remember I said elementary schools and you were teaching high school. Elementary teachers are mostly all female and in my area, yes most are married to men who make more than they do. If your curious about salary schedules now you might check out www.bluevalleyk12schools.org/ under employment, applicant information. I was wrong, starting salary is $38k.

I've heard from many college staff that working at a community college, while paying less than the universities, is way less stress. Incidentally Johnson County Community College has over 30,000 students making it really the biggest college in Kansas.

I think your thread has gotten the most attention because you are the best writer.

Brad--I swear I didn't expect you to say that about my blog. I wasn't fishing for compliments. Thanks. Yes, I got paid less at Butler, but the working conditions were worth the cut in pay. I loved it there and I probably would have stayed longer except that I live in Wichita and I was driving to El Dorado and/or Andover to teach. The winter weather finally got the best of me. When I started teaching online I was able to stay home two days a week and teach. I understand a lot of workers are doing that nowadays.

I know Johnson County is the biggest Kansas community college and I think Butler is right behind it. Two of my three sons and their families live in Johnson County, so I'm familiar with that area.

Blue Valley was once considered the best school district in the state. Is that still the case? Did you teach at Blue Valley? What did you teach?

Teach in Blue Valley? I wish! They easily have over 100 applications for each job for that district. I did graduate there though.

Is it the best in the state? In some ways yes because they have more schools that get those top marks, many students get top awards, plus their sports teams do pretty well. A school play or musical there looks like something on Broadway because many students there are professional actors. Parents move there just because of the schools reputation and you can count on your house value being high because of it. You cant say that about many other districts.

On the negative as I said, they ask for more money from parents and they get it. I dont know how much it cost for a kid to be in your HS journalism course but I think its a couple hundred in BV.

However, I'd say a student gets what they want out of a school. You can get a good or bad education out of any Johnson County School. BV schools also have a terrible clique problems plus alot of drug and alcohol abuse issues.

"However, I'd say a student gets what they want out of a school."

Amen to that! I had very few bad teachers and professors, but I always thought it was my responsibility to learn what I could.

Blue Valley sounds a lot like Winfield in terms of wealth and cliques. My kids got a really good education there, though. And no student had to pay extra to be in the journalism classes. That's really a barrier to some kids, but I suppose Blue Valley parents can afford it or they wouldn't be living there. When I visit my kids who live in Shawnee, I'm always blown away by the obvious wealth I see there. I'm glad my kids are doing well, but it's all pretty overwhelming to me.

I think alcohol and drugs are always an issue with teenagers, even though when I was in the school in the Dark Ages (let's just say I was crazy about Elvis Presley), drugs weren't much of a problem.

Post your own comment here

Do you want to read more? You've only just scratched the surface at the Kansas Free Press. We have so much more to read! Nearly all of the pieces published here are timeless and relevant, regardless of when the articles were first published. To discover more, please take a look at our Table of Contents or go back to our Front Page.

Our sponsors help us stay online to serve you. Thank you for doing your part! By using the specific links below (clicking through from our site) to start any of your online shopping, you are making a tremendous difference. By using the shopping links provided on a Kansas Free Press page, you are directly helping to support the Kansas Free Press:

About This Page

This page contains just one story published on February 21, 2011. The one written previous to this is titled "Immigration Rights Activist and Author David Bacon to Present Spring Lecture" and the story published right after this one is "KOSE Executive Director Responds to Paycheck Deception"

Our most current stories are always updated on our Front Page.

Other Archives

Interested in other topics? You may wish to poke around in our Table of Contents to find other sections and archives.

Do you want to explore pieces written by specific authors? You can find archives for KFP writers by reviewing our complete Directory of Authors and Writers here.

Recently Featured Stories

My Response As a Kansan to Jessica Valenti

Jessica Valenti has come on board The Nation magazine to fill in for Katha Pollitt as the feminist columnist while Pollitt is on leave to write a book. I've found reading Valenti's columns thought-provoking and insightful. She often takes …
Of Angels and God's Dogs

There might be a whole group of us out there--people who value our relationships with animals on a par with our ties to people. "Get over it--it was just a dog" does not resonate with us. Our society places …
Of Angels and God's Dogs

There might be a whole group of us out there--people who value our relationships with animals on a par with our ties to people. "Get over it--it was just a dog" does not resonate with us. Our society places …
Roots of the n-word

While N-word dialogue has slackened following Saline County Commissioner Gile's use of it recently, the word still has great power. So, let's look inward at the N-word. To reach a much deeper path to understanding, simply go to Ad …
Corporate Tax Reform

Basehor, Kans.--For an interesting twist on the corporate tax debate, look at Alan Sloan's opinion in the April 29 issue of Fortune Magazine. In all of the froth about corporate taxation, neither proponents of tax reduction, nor corporate critics, …

News and Opinion

Get Connected

See our FB page!
Subscribe for free!
[Feeds & Readers...]
Follow Kansas Free Press on Twitter, too!
Make Kansas Free Press your home page!

Journalists, sign in.

We're reader supported!

Whenever you use the specific links below to begin any of your online shopping, a portion of your sale goes directly towards the support of this site.

Tech Depot - An Office Depot Co.

Our sponsors help us stay online to serve you. Thank you for doing your part! By using the specific links above (clicking through from our site) to start any of your online shopping, you are making a tremendous difference. By using the shopping links provided on a Kansas Free Press page, you are directly helping to support the Kansas Free Press.

Thank you for your help!

Notices & Policies

All of our Kansas Free Press journalists are delighted that you are here. We all hope that you come here often, sign in and leave us comments, and become an active part of our community. Welcome!

Our writers are credentialed after referral to, and approval by, the editor/publisher of KansasFreePress.com. If you are interested in writing with us, please feel free to let us know here. We are always looking for Kansans who want to write about Kansas!

All authors here retain their own copyrights for their original written works, original photographs and art works. They welcome others to copy, reference or quote from the content of their stories, provided that the reprints include obvious author and website attribution and links to the original page, in accordance with this publication's Creative Commons License.

Our editor primarily reviews stories for spelling, grammar, punctuation and formatting and is not liable or responsible for the opinions expressed by individual authors. The opinions and accuracy of information in the individual stories on this site are the sole responsibility of each of the individual authors. For complete site policies, including privacy, see our Frequently Asked Questions. This site is designed, maintained, and owned by its publisher, Everyday Citizen Media. The Kansas Free Press, KansasFreePress.com, and Kansas Free Press are trademarked names.

© Copyright, 2008-2012, all rights reserved, unless otherwise specified, first by the respective author, and then by KFP's publisher and owner for any otherwise unreserved and all other content.