01/22/2013 05:24 EST | Updated 03/24/2013 05:12 EDT

You Can Only Trust the Teachers' Union if You're a Teacher


Last week I wrote that the Ontario teachers' union is stirring up labour unrest because the government won't give them any more money.

Several indignant readers wrote in to say I had totally misread the situation -- that the teachers' union wasn't concerned about money but rather was protesting the government's undemocratic legislation forcing teachers to accept an unpalatable contract.

Well, as it happens, I have a bridge that I think I can sell to these indignant readers. Really cheap!

The teachers' union is in business to advocate on behalf of their members. The union's job is to get better wages and benefits and working conditions for their members. This is no secret.

As a result, the teachers' union positions on all sorts of issues are predetermined. They already know where they stand on most educational issues and their stances always coincide with their members' interests. Fair enough.

At the same time, however, the union's clout at the bargaining table depends on public support. The union is keenly aware that they need to convince the public they are not really self-interested -- but rather tremendously concerned about the well-being of their students and the education their students are receiving. When the teachers' unions works to advance their members' interests, it always pretends that it is doing it on behalf of others.

The teachers' union begins by knowing what its position is, and then it starts looking around for the most effective arguments to convince others to support it. The union's arguments are chosen on the basis of how likely they are to convince other people to agree. For the most part, the teachers' union will use any argument that works.

So when the Ontario government passed the hated Bill-115, the teachers' union quickly realized that it couldn't complain about the frozen salaries and unbanked sick days. This would look pretty whiny, considering how well compensated teachers already are. So the teachers' union decided to pretend that the real reason it was upset was the threat to democracy represented by Bill-115. How noble of the union to defend democracy on our behalf!

Don't buy it. The teachers' union is still trying to get more money for its members. Business is as usual.

A simple thought experiment will demonstrate the truth of this statement. Imagine, if you will, that the Ontario government had undemocratically imposed a much lusher contract on teachers. Imagine that the imposed contract included generous pay raises, more time off, better benefits, company cars for every teacher, and a partridge in a pear tree.

Do you REALLY think the teachers' union would be whipping its members into a lather over this undemocratic contract?

The bottom line is -- when they say it's not about the money, it's about the money.

And anyone who still wants to buy a really cheap bridge is encouraged to make an offer. Supplies are limited.

Twitter On Ontario Teachers Contracts