Saturday, May 16, 2009

professional vs unprofessional

Before getting into the main body of today's blog, I must make a few comments concerning the reporting of the News Journal for this Saturday, May 16, 2009. First, in the Local section a headline blasts, "Deficit Estimate Swells to $800 Million". You have to read further into the article to see that the figure accounts for neither $155 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA ie Federal Stimulus), nor the $53.5 million from the gaming bill. There are other things you should know as well. The revenue estimate on the gaming bill is almost entirely made on the increased "point split" (tax on existing casino profits). The new sports betting revenue is downplayed and table game revenues are not calculated at all. Regarding the bank franchise tax, the estimate was intentionally ratcheted down around $5 million not to account for anything happening this year in actual returns, but because of possible Federal regulations next year or beyond.

Having observed a couple of the Delaware Economic and Financial Advisory Council (DEFAC) revenue subcommittee meetings, I can tell you there is a lot more art than science and a lot more ideology than cold logic that goes into revenue estimates in Delaware. The most powerful interests in Delaware are represented on the committee.

Additionally in the News Journal today is an editorial by Shaun Fink that runs up the old ragged flag of 'let's cut taxes and cut state government'. This philosophy is supposed to incentivize businesses to "create jobs". Businesses do not create jobs per se, they create profits. Giving a business a tax break does not mean that the owner will say, "I'm going to take this money and go hire three people". If there is no need for the labor because there is no demand for the service or product the business does not hire just because there is extra money in the bank. Trickle down economics has greatly contributed to the mess the nation is in now. If one looks at a graph of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) from the mid-1970s to the present and compare that with wages from the same time period, you see GDP going up in a steady arc and wages leveling and going down until the present time with a huge gap between the lines. In other words the fruits of productivity are not trickling down to those doing the producing. We have a gap between the rich and poor that has not been seen since the Gilded Age. The middle class, on the way to their demise, were making less and less in real wages and were borrowing more and more in dubious credit schemes. Eventually it all collapsed and there were a lot of contributing factors but at the heart of it, we do not have the bulk of the population earning good wages and benefits anymore.

All of this economic and political conversation around the distribution of wealth is important to school employees and state workers because they are ground zero in the next battle of the class war. Private sector employees and their unions have been under a thirty year attack. Only about 7% of the private sector remains unionized compared with about 37% of the public sector. Now, wages and benefits of the public sector are under the same attack.

OK, OK, I have to get to my title blog, "professional vs unprofessional". This coming week is the "bell to bell" week for Delaware State Education Association" members. It is the week that members are asked to demonstrate how much they do beyond the contract day by gathering together before the first bell and entering at the start of the contract day and leaving together at the last bell. In other words this is a protest against reducing our pay 8%, working more for less, when we are already working beyond contract day, every day.

There are some members who will say that is "unprofessional". I want to dwell on this a moment before ending an already too long post. Truly, our members are professional in the way they perform their extremely difficult job duties. However, are they professionals in pay, shared decision making, respect, control of their own schedules, control of their own work environment, etc.?

The sad truth is that the label of "professional" has in too many cases become a control mechanism: "Professionals don't complain about their hours. Professionals don't talk back to their principals. Professionals do not consider themselves labor union members. Professionals do not make demands. Professionals do not attend rallies or protests."

One of the great things about DSEA being involved in State Workers United (the coalition of other public employee unions) is that our members see other professionals such as, state troopers, nurses, social workers, technicians, and investigators, all engaged in the union movement and active protest against those who would take food from their families.

Having the power to demand professional respect means the difference between actually being a professional verses a slave with a degree.


  1. Timothy,

    Enjoying your blog, agree that the word professional has been co-opted by administration to suppress dissenting views. On the other hand the pubic battle is generally not won via strikes, bell to bells, slowdowns, and other various Union tactics. Being the professionals that you are and working hard o change the system by getting thoughtful decision makers in place, like school boards.....will make all the difference in the world.

    As I have said before, I will not tow the union line just to tow it, but when the Union has a point to be made, I will make sure it becomes a fully articulated viewpoint in board meeting and through that in actual policy decisions.

  2. I am not hearing so much about "unprofessional" from members as I am hearing:
    > this is too much trouble for too little effect
    > this will make my teaching life much harder because I have a lot to do and I get a lot done when I come in early or stay late
    > who is going to see this? at my school, no one will see us coming in and going out together

    Members do not really see the absolute value of the Bell-to-Bell, but many will do it as part of the overall DSEA Action Plan. Other schools will drop the ball on the BTB activity.

  3. Have already have had two "negative comments" from the community in general. One, a small business owner, who called us unbelievable selfish for "whinning" about the salary reduction, another from a parent who was more afraid that the safety of her child was at stake. In general, the Bell to Bell has raised awareness tremendously and created ample opportunity to discuss this.