Obama Acts Like Reagan 1981, the Union-Buster

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

Click the flash player to listen to or the mic to download an audio in MP3 format.

The president has signaled loudly and clearly that he and education secretary Arne Duncan have a “'final solution” for public education. Like Ronald Reagan, Obama is portraying the unions as a threat to the national welfare. “The fundamental logic of Obama’s so-called Race to the Top program, is to break the teaches unions.”

 
Obama Acts Like Reagan 1981, the Union-Buster
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
Obama is is going after the teachers unions with a hatchet – just like Reagan went after the air traffic controllers.”
President Obama’s endorsement of the firing of the entire faculty and staff of a Rhode Island public school is reminiscent of Ronald Reagan’s crushing of the air traffic controllers union, nearly three decades ago. Back then, President Reagan made an example of a union that had supported his presidential candidacy, firing its members and ultimately decertifying the union when it went on strike. The move sent a signal to the bosses in all sectors of the U.S. economy: the president – the U.S. government – is on management’s side, and unions are a considered a threat to the general economic welfare.
Last week, President Obama sent the same kind of signal to teachers unions, when he cited the Central Falls, Rhode Island, school shutdown as an example of the “accountability” he is demanding of poorly performing schools – which invariably means poor, non-white schools. Teachers union leaders appeared to be shocked by Obama’s language and tone – but they shouldn’t have been. The Rhode Island mass firing was not substantively different than the wholesale sacking of teachers and abrogation of their union contracts elsewhere in the country. The fundamental logic of Obama’s so-called Race to the Top program – a multi-billion dollar competition to show which states are most willing to fire teachers, shut down classrooms and replace them with charter schools – is to break the teachers union. If the teachers want to save their union, their dignity, their contracts, and the institution of public education, they will have to break with Obama. Because he is going after them with a hatchet – just like Reagan went after the air traffic controllers, despite their having supported his 1980 candidacy.
Obama takes Bush's No Child Left Behind scheme to its logical, blood on the floor conclusion.”
Obama's hatchet man and basketball buddy is Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who envisions waves of school closings, teacher firings and charter school openings for the next “five or six years.” That sounds like a kind of “final solution” for teachers unions – and for public education.
Obama's plans for America's classrooms are even more aggressive than George Bush's policies. Obama takes Bush's No Child Left Behind scheme to its logical, blood on the floor conclusion: corporate education without the encumbrances of organized teachers. Obama's anti-union vision is more ambitious than that of the old arch-reactionary, Ronald Reagan, who destroyed a union of only 13,000 members. The American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association have combined memberships of over 4 million. They have the capacity to fight back, to make this president back off. But, like so many others who drank the Obama Kool Aid, they are in denial, refusing to believe that they backed a union-buster who is making teachers the scapegoat for America's historical failure to serve the educational needs of all its children.
Private teacher training outfits are turning out young and hungry replacements for todays teachers, anticipating a huge turnover in public schools as Obama swings his hatchet. Teachers need to revolt against this administration while they still have a union to fight for them.
For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Glen Ford. On the web, go to www.BlackAgendaReport.com.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at [email protected].