Union Rules: Teachers Paid Not to Teach

Here is yet another story where union members undergoing disciplinary procedures can sometimes spend years being paid their full salary to sit home and watch TV, doing nothing, working not a minute of their day. In this case it is costing a local school system at least $2.25 million to pay teachers that aren’t teaching.

This story focuses on teachers in Buffalo, New York but it is a story repeated in unions of all sorts all across the country.

The problem is that unions are allowed to become so meddlesome in member’s disciplinary procedures, the unions are allowed to block them so easily, that disciplinary procedures take an inordinate amount of time. All too often boards of review and other provisions to determine the culpability of bad teachers and arrive at a suitable punishment are opposed tooth and nail by unions. Unions especially fight the ultimate punishment: firings.

To be sure, no one thinks that unions should be so powerless that teachers can be fired on a whim. There certainly must be fairness for both parties, teachers and school administrations (the employer) alike.

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But what ends up happening in unions of all sorts is that the unions are so reluctant to agree to a speedy address to disciplinary issues that individual union members sometimes languish for years — all the while being paid at full salary — waiting for their cases to be decided. And in the case of teachers, this means that the state is being forced to pay millions of dollars a year to pay teachers who aren’t teaching.

In the Buffalo case, for instance TV station WGRZ found that a mere 12 teachers are costing the school system $2.25 million a year to sit around waiting for their disciplinary cases to be adjudicated. And this doesn’t even count the costs of the substitute teachers that have to be hired to replace those teachers that are being paid to do nothing.

Now this situation happens in many other professions, as well. In the auto industry, for instance, the problem is called the “rubber room” effect. This is the practice of having a “jobs bank” where members spend months and years sitting around reading newspapers and drinking coffee every day at full pay while disciplinary measures are taken up or as they wait for job openings in other parts of the industry.

Again, these people are being paid at full salary to sit about doing nothing.

There are solutions for things like this, of course. Creating policies that adjudicate these matters faster is the first measure to consider. Finding ways to fire troublemakers is also an important goal. But unions simply do not want to allow such a sensible solution. Unions want these issues to be long and drawn out costing employers millions, perhaps billions when all unions in the country are added together.

And who eventually ends up paying for all of this? You guessed it. We the People.

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