THE PAST IS WITH US

5/3/05

   To many leaders in the education/labor movement, the complacency of many in the current generation of teachers is a source of irritation and consternation.  Having begun their careers long after teachers through collective struggle had won respectable wages and conditions, they are often unaware of the extent to which the conditions they enjoy weren’t just given them by an enlightened management but were fought for by those who came before them and are still tied to the willingness of the current generation to fight to preserve and extend them.  Teachers in Plainview-Old Bethpage need only look at the conditions of their colleagues in our community’s public library to understand the profound benefit of over forty years of struggle.  There they will find a workplace eerily reminiscent of schools   forty years ago.   

   They will find a workplace of highly educated, low paid women whose work is at best taken for granted and sometimes completely disrespected.  They will find a management that thinks there is nothing wrong in hiring an employee at one salary and subsequently hiring another similarly skilled and experienced for more than the first, without a thought for the impact on the morale of the institution.  They will find workers with no employer provided disability, dental, vision, catastrophic medical or life insurance, coverages taken for granted by their colleagues in Long Island public schools.  They will find an anti-union management that immediately upon settling a contract with their professional staff habitually provides more to their docile, non-union workers as but another way of thumbing their noses at the people who make the library work.  They will meet, as I have, a trustee of the library who incredibly expressed the view that if the library were staffed by men, there wouldn’t be as many labor issues there. It is somehow a pettiness trait found on the X chromosome that causes all the ill will at the library.  They will find an environment of management generated mistrust so off the scale that it literally happened that an employee who fell ill, to the point of having to be carried out, was forced to swipe her card through the library’s time clock.  

     They will find a group of professionals who despite being disrespected and poorly paid relative to their educational status provide the highest level of library services anywhere in the area, it being altogether routine for people from miles around to travel to Plainview to take advantage of our superior services.  They will find a group of people who are fed up with their bad treatment, people who are getting themselves organized to demand that they be treated with dignity and respect, just as their colleagues in the schools did long ago.

return to pct homepage