One of our local “public” radio stations is in the midst of a pledge drive right now, and in truth I listen to them a lot. (My commute to work runs close to 90 minutes each way, and NPR is usually the best thing on the radio.) I used to be a “member,” until the SEPTA transit workers’ strike of 2005, when WHYY only once (so far as I could tell from more than 20 hours of listening, most during peak news times) allowed a worker or union official on the air. That report was part of the national NPR newscast, originating with the local classical/jazz station which has only the most skeletal of news operations, but had enough news sense to send a reporter to the picket line to ask why workers had gone out. (WHYY’s schedule is built around news and informational programming, In fairness, during the 20+ hours there was a talk show in which one of the guests expressed some sympathy for the union’s position that they had long ago traded lower pay for good benefits, and it was unfair to now demand that they surrender those benefits without getting anything in return; but he wasn’t a union member, and could not speak from the workers’ experience.) So I wrote the radio bosses canceling my membership, explaining that as a working stiff myself I could not donate my hard-earned money to pro-boss propaganda outlets.
This morning, they aired a report on last night’s School Deform Commission meeting, which was surrounded by 4,000 protesters outraged at the state-controlled board’s latest attack on the teachers, and hence on the schools. It was marred by the usual false balance, in which the arguments of the overwhelming majority were “balanced” with equal time for the “arguments” — some of them actually hired by corporate lobbyists to give a “grassroots” veneer to their attacks — of those who think teachers, students and others have no rights, and should do what we are told. As the report noted, those who showed up to support the attacks on the teachers and schools were heckled; and so immediately after the report one of the pitch-meisters exhorting us to give, and then give some more, went off on a rant about how the protestors needed to “listen.” Of course, it is only the workers and their supporters who need to listen — the school board’s refusal to listen to or work with its teachers, instead unilaterally canceling their contract, troubles her not in the least. (When students showed up to protest at a ComCast-SRC showing of an anti-teachers union movie, a ComCast employee and SRC board member screamed at them that they were products of failing schools who should be sent to jail.) They speak, we listen — and then do as we are told. I’m not willing to pay for that sort of thing.
By the way, a prior post on the SRC’s attack on the teachers made the mistake of assuming the board was telling the truth about the financial terms it was imposing on the teachers. That was a serious mistake, and I apologize. It turns out that the SRC’s claims about what teachers would have to pay under its dictat assume the teachers would switch to a cheaper plan in order to avoid the massive premiums they would have to pay to keep comparable benefits. Teachers with family coverage would be out of pocket an additional $678 a month if they don’t agree to a cut-rate plan. That’s a very hefty pay cut indeed.
The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers seems content to call a few demonstrations (perhaps much larger demonstrations than they had planned) to let their members blow off steam while they trust to the courts to protest their rights. Several major local unions — including some that are scabbing right now at the Philadelphia Convention Center — suggested calling a one-day general strike in support of the teachers, but the PFT asked them not to. Instead, the unions decided to work to elect a Democrat as governor. Two of the SRC members, including the one who supports jailing students, were appointed by Philadelphia’s Democratic mayor, and the Republican governor-appointed chair is a longtime Democrat and former city councilman who has long campaigned against public education.