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Archive for the 'Politics' Category

6 reasons why you should care about the teachers’ union protests in Wisconsin

Sunday, February 27th, 2011

Wisconsin teacher union protests1Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard about the union protests that are spreading throughout the country like wildfire.

Approximately 70,000 people flooded to Wisconsin’s capital city of Madison this past Saturday to protest a proposed bill introduced by Wisconsin’s Republican Gov. Scott Walker. As part of a budget repair bill, which was introduced on February 11th, Walker’s proposed changes would restrict a worker’s right to negotiate better pensions, salaries, and health benefits.

President Barack Obama has publicly stated that taking away a union’s bargaining rights was like “an assault on unions.” Even Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine/the Nightwatchman has spoken out to support the protesters, claiming that “Madison is the next Cairo,” and Walker is the “Mubarak of the Midwest.” (Morello has been a long-time supporter of unions because his mother used to work as a teacher in Illinois).

You as an intelligent American citizen should be

Whether you are a high school graduate or a college freshman, as an intelligent American citizen you should be concerned about what is going on in Wisconsin, and here’s why:

1. It affects freedom of thought and expression in classrooms

Because good teacher contracts essentially “protect academic freedom,” this new proposed bill could limit what is discussed in classrooms, what textbooks are used in schools, and whether evolution should be taught to students.

Not only that, the proposed bill will also impact class sizes, teacher workloads, curriculum planning, and so much more.

2. It could affect your future career

Even if you don’t plan on becoming a teacher, the proposed bill will affect all sorts of union workers, such as policemen, postal workers, pilots, administrators, nurses, firefighters, state troopers, etc.

Because collective bargaining helps unions determine various conditions of employment and pay rates, this could have a negative impact on decisions regarding sick leave, promotion, retirement, grievance procedures, and work rules.

Union officials have also stated that collective bargaining helps protect workers against racial or age discrimination. Or, for example, if you are a union worker and your employer doesn’t like you, your rights as a union member will protect you from being laid off from your job.

3. The domino effect

Ever since the news broke of the new proposed bill in mid-February, anger has trickled over state lines and has impacted much of the Midwest.

And to make matters worse, Republican lawmakers are already in the process of introducing anti-union and anti-worker legislations in states such as Idaho, Indiana and Ohio.

Also, in what is being called “A Rally to Save the American Dream,” MoveOn.org and 45 other groups known for supporting Democratic candidates, called for union supporters to protest in 50 different states on Saturday, February 26th. (Click here to see photos of the rallies).

4. It needlessly tests the beliefs and values of teachers Wisconsin teacher union protests2

Some union workers and Democrats believe that the proposed bill is “an attempt to cripple union support for Democrats.” The co-president of Madison’s Teaching Assistants’ Association, Alex Hanna, has spoken out against the bill stating that it is “undemocratic and obviously politically motivated.”

The proposed bill has rubbed teachers the wrong way, especially those who feel strongly about their personal values or beliefs when it comes to politics and religion. Instead of the sole issue being about worker’s rights, the issue has sparked a political debate and has forced a polarization between those with differing political opinions.

For example, some conservative-minded individuals believe that by giving teachers more freedom to choose what to teach in classroom, students could be used as pawns to support the goal of unions. Students may be taught to stand up for unions which could be seen as a subversive way to get around government actions through legalized curriculum.

5. The rich get richer and the middle-class get poorer

Union supporters also believe the proposed bill will have a devastating impact on the working and middle class. With Gov. Walker’s proposed bill, state employees will soon have to start making payments towards state pensions and health insurance, thus the wallets of the working class will be affected the most.

One major underlying issue that angers protesters is the fact that they are sick and tired of seeing big corporations take money away from the working class. By taking away a teacher’s rights to negotiate the terms of their employment, there will be less middle class values in the educational field.

6. The times are a-changing

Many believe that the protests in the Middle East have been a driving force for Americans to take to the streets and speak up for the rights of union workers.

In this current economic state, the last thing teachers want to hear is that they need to pay more money out of their pockets. Despite the fact that the rights of union workers has been an ongoing issue for years, the recession has forced the situation to a boiling point.

And to make matters worse, this new bill will be turning back the clock for many unions who have been working to provide “round-the-clock” emergency medical services coverage which took years to develop.

It’s time to move forward and demand change, not take a step backwards.

But let’s not forget that these protests aren’t just about teacher’s rights, it’s about putting the education of students first.

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Tough News for those Graduating in 2010 – Job Seekers Vastly Outnumber Available Jobs

Sunday, September 27th, 2009

A month to the day we recommended that the Class of 2010 begin examining all their future options, that next year’s graduate should begin thinking about what they might do instead of simply entering the workforce. Our rationale was simple, the current unemployment rates and the impact of two poor successive job placement years meant that job opportunities next spring are likely to be no better than those seen last spring.

Lest our readers have any doubt regarding our advice, that particular scenario has been reinforced by data relayed today by the New York Times. According to the Times, Labor Department statistics for the month of July revealed that just “2.4 million full-time permanent jobs were open” yet there were “14.5 million people officially unemployed.”

That represents a six to one ratio, the worst such ratio since the Labor Department began tracking such numbers. The sum total is that workers will continue to be looking for employment for a much longer period than has occurred in prior recessions.

And that means that those graduating in 2010 will be competing with a number of experienced workers for the very few job openings available.

Long Term Impact

iStock_000008377896XSmallWhile some economists believe the recession is over, this data reveals that the recession could well be a double-dipper, if not a stagnator. The high unemployment rates mean that a large segment of America still has little in the way of disposable income and will remain in such a plight for the near future.

Therefore, the high unemployment rates also will ultimately translate to a continued reduction in consumer spending. Given the dependence of our nation’s economy on consumer spending, this current scenario could well mean that the ugly head of recession may reemerge in the not distant future.

The current situation also represents a major issue for federal and state budgets. Fewer workers translates to fewer taxable dollars coming into the government coffers, both in income and sales based taxes. That likely means more in the way of layoffs at the state and federal levels.

The job losses have also resulted in a large number of early retirement claims from laid-off seniors. Overall, applications for retirement benefits are up 23 percent over a year.

That means that Social Security is about to pay out more in benefits than it collects in taxes over the next two years (the first such occurrence since the 1980s). This will, of course, only make those federal budget deficit numbers for 2010 and 2011 that much worse.

Student Options

Overall, this data indicates that those graduating in 2010 should begin to research options other than the traditional workforce, including the Peace Corps, Americorps, Teach for America and graduate school. Given the state of the economy, the current situation means that these options could all well be out of the question for those who procrastinate.

If you are graduating in 2010, now is the time to begin thinking about all your options.

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Obama Unwelcome Choice as Commencement Speaker at Notre Dame

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009

Top honoree rejects recognition based on choice of Obama as graduation speaker.

It is not often that someone turns down a prestigious award from a college like Notre Dame.

But then again, it is equally unusual that the presence of a newly-elected, highly-popular president, would be the catalyst for rejecting such an honor.

But that is precisely what Harvard Law professor Mary Ann Glendon has done. Citing the school’s invitation to Barack Obama to deliver the 2009 commencement address and plan to award the president an honorary degree, Glendon has politely said thanks, but no thanks to the university.

Initial Acceptance

The issue centers upon the conflicting position of Catholics and the president on the issue of abortion.

In December, Glendon, a former ambassador to the Vatican and a consultant to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops had been selected to receive the 2009 Laetare Medal. Described by the university as the “most prestigious award given to Catholics” yearly, the medal recognizes those “whose genius has ennobled the arts and sciences, illustrated the ideals of the Church and enriched the heritage of humanity.”

Glendon, chosen as commencement speaker and given an honorary degree from Notre Dame in 1996, was at first pleased to learn of her selection last December. However, when she became aware that Obama was selected to receive an honorary doctorate and given the opportunity to give the commencement address, she found herself extremely dismayed.

From Critic to Absentee

Still, it appears that Glendon was set to attend, at least initially. Reports had the Harvard Law professor attending the ceremony and accepting her award so that she could take advantage of her opportunity to provide public remarks to criticize the president’s position.

But later, when it appeared that Notre Dame might utilize her presence at graduation as a step towards defending the school’s choice of Obama as commencement speaker, Glendon decided to reject the prestigious honor.

Directly citing the abortion issue, Glendon wrote in her university rejection letter that the choice demonstrated “disregard of the U.S. bishops’ express request of 2004 that Catholic institutions ‘should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles’ and that such persons ‘should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.’”

Moreover, in her letter to Rev. John I. Jenkins, Notre Dame’s president, she noted that the university appeared to be seeking to use her to balance off the more recent, unpopular selection of Obama.

She first cited one of the Notre Dame talking points regarding the matter:

“We think having the president come to Notre Dame, see our graduates, meet our leaders, and hear a talk from Mary Ann Glendon is a good thing for the president and for the causes we care about.”

Then soundly rejected the idea that commencement was a place for dissenting views to be aired. She wrote:

“A commencement, however, is supposed to be a joyous day for the graduates and their families. It is not the right place, nor is a brief acceptance speech the right vehicle, for engagement with the very serious problems raised by Notre Dame’s decision—in disregard of the settled position of the U.S. bishops—to honor a prominent and uncompromising opponent of the Church’s position on issues involving fundamental principles of justice.”

Tough Position for the President

Given Obama’s ability to see the large picture, the rejection by Glendon, a professor at the president’s alma mater, has to be upsetting to him personally. In addition, the fact that such a prestigious honor, awarded prior to his being chosen to speak, would be summarily rejected on account of his being selected definitely puts the president in a very difficult position.

It is perhaps too late for either Notre Dame or the president to rescind. Most notably, if he does preside at commencement as expected, Obama will need all of his rhetorical skills and speech writing talents to ensure his presence does not undermine the spirit of the day for those graduating.

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Vote for the Winner of the 2008 Political Blogging Scholarship

Wednesday, February 27th, 2008

So, What’s Your Choice?

Below are the 3 Finalists for the 2008 Political Blogging Scholarship. Voting will be closed on March 16th at midnight PST. Support your favorite blogger! Check out their blogs by following this post.

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