I found it a little ironic Saturday when I read that the Tacoma teachers union was upset that striking teachers’ pay would be delayed (TNT, 9-24). Their first paycheck Oct. 5 will only cover the two days they actually worked before going out on strike. The district claims state law prohibits it from paying for work not done.
Tacoma Education Association president Andy Coons disputes that. He told reporter Debbie Cafazzo that the delay was “retaliatory” on the district’s part. “You are going to have 2,000 families not being able to make their mortgages, not being able to pay their bills based on this.” He noted that “most teachers live paycheck to paycheck.”
Here’s the irony part: When we editorialized that a strike would likely be a costly inconvenience for district families who would have to scramble to make child-care arrangements, we got several letters and online comments from teachers criticizing us. The gist was that parents had known for several weeks that a strike might occur, so they should have had backup plans in place. If they were inconvenienced, they had only themselves to blame.
Well, teachers have known since last spring that a strike was a possibility. That’s when the union surveyed them, asking “Are you willing to strike?” The union never publicly revealed the outcome of that survey, but given what happened you’d have to guess that the teachers were supportive of striking.
It’s a little hypocritical for teachers to criticize parents – many of whom earn far less than teachers – for not being prepared for a strike and then turn around and claim hardship themselves. Shouldn’t they have been budgeting for a possible strike?
But then, why should they? The teachers had no expectation that a strike might be a financial hit – unlike members of private-sector unions who actually forfeit pay when they walk the picket lines. They knew they’d get paid no matter how long they were out on strike because state law mandates the length of the school year.
At least by getting their pay delayed until they actually earn it, they’ll share a little of the pain they inflicted on district families.
(And I’m sure some teacher will write in to tell me that I’m misusing “irony.” Go tell it to Alanis Morrisette).