Thursday, April 17, 2008
Striking teachers: the Pros and Cons of Nonviolence
When I analyze a nonviolent campaign, it is important for me to try to remain as unbiased as is humanly possible. This is the case because I have a natural predilection and preference for nonviolent means of affecting change. I must admit, sometimes this tunnel-vision impedes my ability to see all sides of an issue or campaign.
I had to work very hard to remain unbiased when I discovered an article in the New York Times covering a strike that is being staged by "350 teachers at Roman Catholic schools from New York City and its northern suburbs." The teachers will begin their strike on Thursday when the Pope arrives in New York. The teachers, however, are not protesting the Pope's arrival. Rather, the 350 teachers and the Lay Faculty Association to which they belong are striking for better wages and quality health care plans. According to Henry Kielkucki of the Lay Faculty Foundation, the movement is supposed to show people that the "Catholic diocese is not preaching what the pope is preaching.”
The Lay Faculty Foundation is a labor union which has observed that Catholic diocese teachers are making "$25,000 less than their public school counterparts." According to Mr. Kielkucki of the LFA, the pensions are insufficient and health care premiums are too steep. The union feels that it needs to make its voice heard. Therefore, the teachers are waiting until the Pope shows up before they express their discontent with the situation. The archdiocese have been trying to compromise, but the LFA has been persistent, refusing to make any concessions. It appears as if picket signs will remain until something concrete has been established.
For me, it would be easy for me to be completely content with the demonstration; teachers are ridiculously under-appreciated.
Nevertheless, I would not be thoroughly examining this nonviolent campaign if I looked simply at these facts, because the other fact of the matter is relatively saddening. Thousands of kids will not be able to interact with their favorite teachers. Thousands of kids will miss many days of instruction when the teachers begin striking. The Lay Faculty Association has been rigid with negotiations. In other words, the singularity of purpose of the striking teachers has adversely affected the lives of many individuals in the New York area.
Ultimately, one involved in a nonviolent campaign must seek justice first. Then, he/she must seek to preserve life at all costs through compromise. Granted, these teachers are not killing their students for higher wages. However, they are damaging their educational growth. And as a teacher, that should always be one's first priority.
How can teachers seek to improve their plights while at the same continuing to instruct their children?