Teachers Union Thinks It Blocked Online Classes...But It Didn't

from the acted-like-assclowns-to-boot dept

I've always struggled with the concept of unions and collective bargaining. The realist in me knows the history of employment in the early days of this country and how woefully employers treated their people. Early labor unions also had a heavy hand in social reforms for ideals like free public education. Yay, unions! On the other hand, we're all aware of the stories of waste and corruption among big union leadership, the inefficiencies they create in the workforce, and the potentially detrimental effects on the economic competitiveness of America in a global marketplace. Damn you, evil unions!

And so it's under this same conflicted backdrop that I read what SD sent in, a story about the University of California's teachers' union gleefully celebrating the blocking of online courses. More specifically, the union is saying the language in the contract would allow them to block any online course that would result in lessening employment statistics for the school's lecturers, which make up a hefty percentage of the teaching force. Let's tackle a couple of things relating to this story.

First, examine some words from Bob Samuels, President of the union and possible jerky-quote-producing-android-automaton:
 “We feel that we could stop almost any online program through this contract. We feel we got something that the university didn’t really understand."
The article goes on to note:
"And stop it they would. Regardless of any data administrators trot out to argue that students learn just as well online as they do in the classroom, the union would do whatever it could to block the university from moving courses online if it decides the move would make life worse for lecturers, says Samuels."
Now, perhaps you're like me and any time you hear someone say something that so clearly dismisses anyone else's well-being aside from their own, your brain shuts down your ears for fear that your entire faith in the basic providence of humanity would be vanquished in an angry mind-fire. So let me break this down for you. Samuels, President of a union of teachers, is saying that they'll block online courses regardless of any evidence as to their efficacy if it results in even one less lecturer on campus. Learning? Rising costs in education for students? Technological progress? Unimportant, fools! This is where I think back to the union leaders of old, who pushed for social reforms effecting those outside their union members, and wonder where it all went wrong.

(Fun side note: Samuels recently wrote an article for the Huffington Post suggesting that we forgo Obama and the Tea Party in favor on an online activist party. WHAT!!??? And put all those businesses that spring up around both the Obama campaign and Tea Party rallies out of work!!?? You know who disagrees with Bob Samuels? Bob Samuels!)

And here's the really fun part. The University reviewed the langauge Samuels is referring to and promptly chuckled something close to, "what the duck is he talking about?"
“They do not have the power to block the university from implementing new online programs,” says Dianne Klein, a spokeswoman for the Office of the President. The most the [union’s] bargaining unit could do,” Klein says, “is provide written notice saying, ‘We don’t like this.’ ”
I think what's most amazing to me in all of this is that apparently there aren't any Public Relations teachers willing to give Samuels a hand. If you want to gain public support for limiting online classes, it's possible. You come out with some kind of study or research suggesting the benefit of lecturers to the actual education process, you make your argument to the school and the public, and we find out who wins. What you don't do is misinterpret legal language in a contract as saying you have power you don't and then gleefully provide quotes in articles that essentially amount to, "We got one over on a higher education institution and now they can kiss our collectively bargaining asses."

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread

  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Oct 2011 @ 5:33pm

    Ahhh, if only the union leaders were salesmen like the politicians, then they'd do PR much more effectively.

    This guy has been an idiot, because he's an ordinary guy, not a heavily coached, carefully coiffed and manicured snake oil salesman.

    Always a disadvantage for unions.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. icon
    xenomancer (profile), 14 Oct 2011 @ 5:43pm

    Painful Stupidity

    "any time you hear someone say something ... [so stupid] ... your brain shuts down your ears"

    Unfortunately, I was reading this article when my brain panicked. My ears shut down, but alas, I was unable to stop reading Samuels' pithy remarks on how beneficial the union has been to itself. I was able to finally stop reading when I voluntarily refused to accept the signals from my eyes, but it was too late! Samuels had left me speechless with his obtuse aspirations of noble elitism. I had become deaf, dumb, and blind. It took nearly a whole ten minutes of running around in a uni-sensed world, screaming for liberation from my ignorance constructed cage and attempting to read my LCD screen in brail (didn't work as planned) to break the shroud of Samuels. When I finally came back to the land of sound, sight, and speech, I apologized to the officer at the door (damn neighbors) and sat to collect my thoughts. I realized that my response to Samuels was moot as for all his gloating, he has buried himself in a pit of cognitive dissonance. Its most fitting that a representative, such as Samuels, of a union of luddite educators should fail to understand the reality of the situation posed. That such a supposedly astute collection of individuals could misconstrue the ability to deliver annoying emails and fliers as a form of absolute administrative power suggests their incapacity to fulfill the duties to society they profess would be otherwise abdicated. I'll end this tale of inconsequential tragedy with a quote that sums up my thoughts on Samuels:

    "Mr. [Samuels], what you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent [statement] were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this [world] is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no [internets], and may God have mercy on your soul. "

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. icon
    Chris ODonnell (profile), 14 Oct 2011 @ 6:00pm

    Even if they did have the power to block online classes in CA, that won't save any jobs when the people that want online classes just take them from a school not in CA.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    abc gum, 14 Oct 2011 @ 6:07pm

    Greed is number three ? I guess the order is not meaningful.

    There needs to be a balance between different groups of society. When one group attains too much influence the rest suffer. Like a pendulum, it swings ... maybe.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Floyd, 14 Oct 2011 @ 6:38pm

    Heh, I like the joke about Unions being benevolent at the beginning of the article. Unions pushed mandatory public education in order to keep younger, harder working competition out of the labor market and not able to start training in a career until an older age. Now we have the worlds best education system!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. icon
    The Mighty Buzzard (profile), 14 Oct 2011 @ 7:09pm


    Problem is if you push the pendulum too high when it's on your side, the guys at the other end of its arc are going to pull it free and beat you in the head with it when it swings their way.

    In going for the short-term gain for their members they're pretty well fucking them in the long term.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Daddy Warbucks, 14 Oct 2011 @ 7:17pm

    Occupy Reality

    This attitude is in line with the academics locking up all kinds of data, information, experiments, etc at schools across the country. Unions "had" their place as the article specifies, but unions are now clearly in the midst of destructive processes.

    Double-dipping state and city employees, UAW workers demanding more after being saved, educators who "claim" to be for the students, but are not (see above and the numerous stories on this site) and my favorite, the rioting workers in Seattle who took hostages.

    Economist Thomas Sowell asked Samuel Gompers, the legendary labor leader, "What does organized labor want? And Samuel said in one word,
    More!" "When they (Unions) say 'fair share', they mean More." - Sowell

    Union membership has been declining so expect to see the Unions capitalize on the OWS movement because they're recruiting and will Not stop until they have
    Uh, I mean, More!
    Wait…wait, MORE!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Oct 2011 @ 8:31pm

    Yay, unions!
    Damn you, evil unions!

    I'm glad I'm not the only one who doesn't know what to think about them.
    I don't have any real data to work with, but my current hypothesis on unions is that their quality varies based on their leadership. So some unions with excellent leadership would behave professionally and try to have a positive effect on the world, and other unions with poor leadership would try to get money for nothing and throw rotten eggs at people they don't like.
    Unfortunately, good leadership tends to be in short supply these days.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Lawrence D'Oliveiro, 14 Oct 2011 @ 8:46pm

    Vulnerable Workers Are Still Vulnerable

    You would think that any kind of business relationship could be handled by competitive bargaining in a free market. Why should employment in a job be any different? But...

    The reason for the existence of unions is because certain (not all) categories of workers will end up being unfairly exploited in such a freely competitive situation—that is, they will end up making less than subsistence income, which is deemed inhumane. Fine, I can accept that.

    Except that unions then sometimes use this excuse to become overtly protectionist, so that it’s no longer about fairness, they now want to stifle any level of competition at all.

    How do we draw a line to ensure that unions can achieve the former without being tempted into the latter?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. icon
    Phalamir (profile), 14 Oct 2011 @ 9:26pm

    I think what he means by lectureres losing jobs

    I think what he means by lecturers losing jobs has to do with how administrators want the courses designed. They want a course format set-up in such a manner as that any warm body can "teach" the course. Basically, lay out all the info, and then do assessment in such a form that actual teaching by the "instructor" is not needed. The meatspace equivalent would be: "Write us a book containing all the lectures needed for the course in a format easily read by freshmen, then write a couple multiple choice exams and a key. Here's $50, now leave peaceably or security will escort you out unconscious on a stretcher". He phrased it so badly as to possibly rip space-time with the derp, but he basically means "we plan to stop the university from charging you a premium for online access to a random guy holding a three-ring binder and a GED".

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Daddy Warbucks, 14 Oct 2011 @ 10:17pm

    Re: Vulnerable Workers Are Still Vulnerable

    The line is "you can't". Authority begets more authority. Unions are authority driven organizations, just like corporations and the growing US Govt.

    A union's main purpose is based on protecting the inadequate at the expense of the skilled. A union would have Steve Jobs and (channeling Sanford & Son) a "dummy" working side by side for the greater good of "the union".

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Oct 2011 @ 11:29pm

    Re: Re: Vulnerable Workers Are Still Vulnerable

    This is not how it started just to see how things can get bad look to how the Hoover Dam was build.

    112 people died in that construction project.

    The pay was low, the police was ruthless against unions, living conditions were horrible.

    That is why they gained power, but the government by making the life easier for them may have corrupted them.

    The same way laws that allow certain things to happen without consequences also create corruption.

    Early unions were forged out of suffering they were challenged constantly and they had did whatever they needed to do to get things done, but at some point they crossed that line where you battle for essentials and start to ask for more and it is hurting workers even though they support those demands, it is like the MPAA or the RIAA those are forms of unions too.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. icon
    SD (profile), 15 Oct 2011 @ 1:01am

    Re: I think what he means by lectureres losing jobs

    That sounds similar to an on-campus scenario where an undergraduate course with a few hundred students is taught by a TA or TF. Besides grading essays and the like, anything that a professor is "overqualified" to do can be automated or passed off to someone else no matter where the class is taught.

    The real problem with a union or a school blocking the expansion of online classes is that it's just not competitive. There are students who work, live out of state or live abroad that can't attend in person. There's also students who go to on-campus classes and wish they were somewhere else. Some of them end up dropping out. If one school doesn't embrace online classes their decision won't stop another school from doing it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Prisoner 201, 15 Oct 2011 @ 2:04am


    Wait what? They have the same internet in the rest of the world?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    tiablau, 15 Oct 2011 @ 2:39am


    Tuition at online schools is typically much lower than that of a traditional school. "High Speed Universities"

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Oct 2011 @ 4:17am

    Re: Re:

    The same but better.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Oct 2011 @ 5:13am

    You always want your union rep to be the most extreme guy, willing to go to the limit to defend his members and to hell with the health of the company or the economy or whatever.

    When you have the union guy playing nasty cop then you can play nice cop with management (who you are going to have to work with afterwards). "Do a deal with me or I'm going to have to call him in and you know what he is like".

    If the union negotiator is conciliatory then you end up with nice cop/nice cop and the management will walk all over you.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. icon
    Any Mouse (profile), 15 Oct 2011 @ 6:59am


    Now we have the worlds best education system!

    Sweet spirits, I hope that was sarcasm.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. icon
    Any Mouse (profile), 15 Oct 2011 @ 7:01am

    Re: Re: Re: Vulnerable Workers Are Still Vulnerable

    Don't forget to compare it with how bad it was for those who didn't have any work, which is why the project was initiated in the first place. It's all well and good to revile the conditions, but the Great Depression needed the uplift.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. icon
    ChrisB (profile), 15 Oct 2011 @ 7:34am


    > have the union guy playing nasty cop

    This is why I dislike unions; they poison the air with an "us" vs. "them" attitude. In Canada, Air Canada employees strike all the time. Heck, just last week, the police had to be called out to a managers house because some employee drove by his house with a gun. Westjet (our next biggest airline) never has these problems -- they aren't unionized.

    A smart businesses know that having happy employees improves the bottom line. There is no need to have unions. At a minimum, we need to get rid of _mandatory_ collective bargaining.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    abc gum, 15 Oct 2011 @ 9:06am

    Re: Re:

    "I hope that was sarcasm"

    Probably not - there are some (crazy) people attempting to remove the child labor laws.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. icon
    Gene Cavanaugh (profile), 15 Oct 2011 @ 12:00pm

    Teacher's Union

    Wow! What an excellent, balanced article! I get so sick of "news" articles that are actually blatantly biased propaganda, and it is so refreshing to see an article like this, that actually IS news (well, opinion too, but fair and balanced (don't be insulted - I know what "fair and balanced" means generally, that is not how I mean it!)).

    Yes, when I first started working, I belonged to a union, and it did some VERY good things - made the employer stop discriminating against women wearing shorts that were okay for men, made the employer stop firing people based on race, etc. Most unions today are, yes, evil. So, like you, I am
    very conflicted; but I agree with you completely.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Oct 2011 @ 5:39pm

    Put the most talented teachers in the country online doing lectures and I would pay to have my kids attend those over attending a class taught by a fresh out 23 year old. In this day and age the current model is expensive, non-uniform, and punishes those who achieve to the greatest degree. Where you have a situation like that you can count on the unions to punish success, promote mediocre results, and look after their own interests. If only there were programs out there to home school in a setting on line where the kids got the very best the country had to offer. Those superstar programs could make millions, the best performing teachers could make major league pay, and the environment would become competitive concerning teaching the children.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24. icon
    xenomancer (profile), 15 Oct 2011 @ 6:14pm

    Re: Re:

    Not if PROTECT IP has anything to do with it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Oct 2011 @ 7:15pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Vulnerable Workers Are Still Vulnerable

    Not sure what you mean.

    The point was that unions didn't appear from nothing they appeared to satisfy a need and when that need was satisfied they become something else.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26. icon
    mhenriday (profile), 16 Oct 2011 @ 7:49am

    Those dastardly unions

    Well, Mr Geigner, given that the proportion of union membership among the employed in the United States is lower than that in any comparable country, you must be living in an economic and social paradise in which waste and corruption are so good as unknown. Congratulations ! That underpaid lecturers - the PhD proletariat - might want to organise to protect their interests and have every right to do so is, of course, patently absurd, and can only be supported by people like us in Europe who don't get it....


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27. icon
    Sneeje (profile), 16 Oct 2011 @ 10:06am


    That's where I am too-- and it makes sense, because it is true of any organization (political, religious, environmental, etc.).

    Leadership is what makes an organization balance its needs and principles with external and internal (individual) needs and expectations.

    I think a lot of folks feel as though many existing organizations seem to think that the only way to achieve their objectives is to do it at the expense of others and without compromise--leading to extreme positions and no consideration of other perspectives.

    Its not that simple, of course, but its how I rationalize it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28. icon
    Christopher (profile), 16 Oct 2011 @ 12:29pm

    Online classes should not be limited in any way, shape or form. Many people like myself are better able to perform when they don't have to worry about giving a 'good impression' to classmates in person because of various psychological disorders ranging from social anxiety disorder to out and out paranoia.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29. identicon
    AJBarnes, 17 Oct 2011 @ 7:28am

    Ah, unions...

    Good old unions.. backward thinking thugs more akin to shakedown mobsters of old than enlightened, educated thinkers.

    Unions... sending American jobs overseas for 100 years...

    Truly our loss.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Oct 2011 @ 9:33am

    Breaking: Public Employee Union Favors Public Employees Over Public!

    Film at 11.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31. icon
    mhenriday (profile), 17 Oct 2011 @ 10:14am

    Re: Ah, unions...

    Ah yes, Mr Barnes, it is unions which have forced - presumably after threatening them with a fate worse than death - the CEOs and board chairmen of US corporations to send «American jobs» to countries in which wages are lower. And of course it is union leaders, not corporate executives, who receive multi-million bonuses when wages and workforces are cut. Any further absurdities which you'd care to peddle on this thread ?...


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32. identicon
    Anonymous Lawyer, 18 Oct 2011 @ 4:56am

    Re: Painful Stupidity

    you should sue for "ireeprable harm" and "mental anguish"

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Show Now: Takedown
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads


Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.