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Featherman: Teachers' union should strike

I hate unions. In particular, I hate the teachers’ union – probably more than any other union.

I hate unions.

In particular, I hate the teachers' union – probably more than any other union.

Having just received notice this past Friday from my health-care provider that my coverage is being canceled due to the Affordable Care Act, I have little sympathy for Philly public school teachers – all of whom don't pay a penny toward their monthly insurance premiums.

Not a friggin' cent.

That's not fair to the rest of us who also pay our taxes but don't get the same sweetheart deal. Almost every person in America has to pay something toward their health care, and our teachers should be no different.

That's why it will probably come as a complete shock to you that I'm supporting the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers on this one and urging them to strike.


Yes, a libertarian Republican who has gone on the record as demanding that we should eliminate public sector collective bargaining is encouraging the teachers to walk off the job right now and protest.

Technically, the members of the PFT are not allowed to strike. As Kristen A. Graham reports, the state forbids teachers from walking out. Doing so, they'd run the risk of having their teaching licenses revoked.

But what's the School District going to do? Fire them all?

They should strike because heavy-handed, poorly thought-out, one-way edicts don't belong in Philadelphia – or anywhere else.

And they shouldn't come back until the School Reform Commission rescinds its canceling of the teachers' contract.

There is no question that the current teachers' contract is putting enormous strain on Philly's taxpayers. And their current contract is standing in the way of reform and good governance in Philadelphia. The teachers' union has gone on record as saying that it's willing to make millions of dollars of meaningful cuts, but they've been vague at best at where the cuts will come from. There's no excuse for that. That has to change right now.

There's plenty of blame to go around.

But the School Reform Commission has been ineffective and has dropped the ball on negotiating any settlement with the teachers' union. If you can't close a contract with your employees in 21 months, you deserve to be fired.

For that reason, we must fire the SRC and move to a locally elected school board. Government appointees have little vested interest in the outcome of the actions compared to locally elected citizens who know that their neighbors will literally come knocking on their doors if they don't perform.

Local Republican activist Joe McColgan has said it ad nauseum, and he told it to me again today via a brief telephone interview: "There are 67 counties in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. 66 elect a school board. One does not. And it's not because we're doing a fine job educating our children."

Taking McColgan's lead, that must change now.

But ultimately, it's not the SRC that's the blame.

It's the Mayor.

Mayor Michael Nutter has been notoriously absent – not just now – but over the course of the past seven years when it comes to negotiating with public sector unions. Several of the city's major unions have been working without contracts for much of Nutter's tenure, and that's not acceptable.

Nutter has failed to persuade the unions' leaders to accept his proposals. As a consequence, Nutter blew a golden opportunity to get the rank and file to give into reform when the economy was suffering. Now that the local economy is bouncing back, the Nutter Administration has become irrelevant in the contract discussion.

Of course, there's a long line of candidates lining up to succeed Hizzoner in next year's open mayoral race. Today is the day for each one of them to come forward and see if they can do something to remediate today's awful decision.

But until then, the teachers have every right to show their displeasure with today's strong-arming. For today, I will join them.