Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Teachers dislike WalMart, but it's not about globalization 

It's about self-preservation.

I've gotten a few notes about this article that appeared in the STrib on teacher union pressure on WalMart. They say they're about asking for higher wages and to permit unionization.

The Minneapolis Federation of Teachers is considering whether to stop reimbursing members for school supplies bought at Wal-Mart.

"This is the beginning of a much more in-depth education program, in which we tell our members why and what Wal-Mart does - not just to small towns, but to workers,'' said Louise Sundin, president of the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers.

The Minneapolis union and the St. Paul Federation of Teachers, which together represent about 9,500 teachers and other school workers, are following the same line as two national teachers unions. The National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers held rallies in 30 cities last week to demand higher wages and better benefits for Wal-Mart workers.

But the anti-Wal-Mart movement hasn't extended into greater Minnesota, where there are fewer stores to choose from. Education Minnesota, the state's largest teachers union with 75,000 members, isn't expected to discuss any action against the nation's largest retailer until its next board meeting in late September, when back-to-school shopping is largely over.

"We encourage our members to shop at places that are treating their workers well,'' said Judy Schaubach, president of Education Minnesota. "But that's going to be more difficult in some areas of the state than others.''

Cheri Yecke of the Center for the American Experiment and a candidate for Congress, is peeved.

Minneapolis and St. Paul teachers union officials, who are calling for a boycott of Wal-Mart, are suffering from a serious case of misplaced priorities.

Last year, only 53 percent of Minneapolis public school students graduated on time. And St. Paul�s graduation rate was also well below the state average.

Instead of engaging in politically-motivated protests against Wal-Mart, which have nothing to do with improving the education of children, union officials should focus more of their time and energy on supporting reforms that will close the achievement gap in their districts.
But according to Joanne Jacobs last week, this has nothing to do with the teachers' unions trying to encourage Quoting this article from the San Jose Mercury News,
Don Dawson, a math teacher at Silver Creek High School in San Jose, said the Walton Family Foundation -- run by the heirs of Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-Mart -- has spent about $250 million in the past six years promoting the school-voucher movement and lobbying for tax credits for parents who send their kids to private schools.
In other words, exactly the thing you'd expect of a government monopolist -- try to bully the competition out of existence. The effort comes now that John Walton, who ran the family foundation, has passed away. Jacobs reports:
Howard Fuller of Black Alliance for Educational Options said in his eulogy:
I once asked John why he supported this movement. He said that poor children were getting a raw deal and he wanted to do something about it and he was in a position to do so.
Just today, I interviewed parents at East Palo Alto Charter School, which was started by low-income minority parents with the help of a Walton-funded group, School Futures. One of the founding parents, told me she'd dropped out in eighth grade to have her first child; her charter-educated children, now in high school, are on track for college. She also said, with pride, that she'd worked for Wal-Mart.
But she's a threat to teacher union profits, so Cities schoolteachers want to sell her kids down the river. (How's that for irony-challenged?)

UPDATE: Should have known to check Craig's blog too. See also Doug at Bogus Gold.