I teach, and I pay taxes – a still-timely encore

This was originally posted in February of 2011 when the wild rumpus in Madison had just begun. I was on medical leave recovering from a severe depression when Gov. Walker’s, er, proposal broke open. The post, unfortunately, is still relevant. The phrase “My Tax Dollars!” is so hurtful when it’s misused, and it’s getting misused daily. 

I teach, and I pay taxes. Or should I say “I pay taxes and I teach”?

Folks who’ve seen the Wisconsin budget drama on CNN or Fox News or CSNBC probably wonder. “Daisy, you’re a teacher! You live in Wisconsin! You’re a progressive thinker and you’re active in politics! Why have you said nothing about the demonstrations? Or the disappearance of the Senate Democrats? Or Governor Walker’s bad hair and desire for make-up any time a camera is near? Never mind that last one.
I haven’t posted yet because it’s so upsetting. Today I’m checking in periodically, but I’m minimizing my TV news time. My news junkie self is not compatible with the depressive self, and I’m in a pretty bad state right now – pun intended.
Instead, I’d like to share a few facts about union history. Consider it a history lesson featuring the American worker.
Early railroad worker unions were primarily insurance providers. The workers could not get standard insurance because their work was considered too hazardous, the workers too risky to insure. From Railroad Labor and its History
The first organization of working women to organize was the Lowell Female Labor Reform Association, a group of young women working in textile mills. For a descriptive piece on the Lowell Mills Girls, look to this piece, an overview of women’s labor rights at the time. From Women and Unions, early efforts
Unions helped outlaw child labor and protect worker safety. The horrible Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire spurred further movements to keep workers safe at work. Work also means outdoor work. Remember Cesar Chavez? The United Farm Workers are glad he took the lead to improve their treatment.
Unions are about people: working people. Unions help regulate working conditions, wages, and employee rights. Benefits in union contracts include paid sick days, working conditions, grievance procedures, opportunities for advancement or changing positions, length of workday, and more. My current contract has 182 pages, single spaced. It’s a complex, thoughtful agreement between the school board and the association that represents the district’s teachers.
Every paycheck I receive has taxes taken out. Yes, I teach. Yes, I pay taxes. Yes, I’m a union member. I’m proud of all three.

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