THE TEACHERS UNION, RUBBER ROOMS, & $40-MILLION

From the desk of Stephen Cabot: It came as no surprise to many that the teachers’ union in New York City had successfully placed a road block in the way of teachers getting fired for incompetence as well as for criminal offenses, such as the sexual abuse of children. Rather than being fired, teachers accused of wrongdoing have been placed in one of New York City’s eight Rubber Rooms (named after the padded cells in mental institutions), where they await their cases being adjudicated. They might wait months, a few years, or as long as ten years, while receiving full pay and all their benefits. As if still working as teachers, they typically clock in at 8:15 and out at 3:15; and, of course, they receive fully paid summer vacations. Some sidelined teachers have allegedly run small Internet businesses while in the Rubber Rooms. This union-based limbo cost New York City $40-million last year!

Now, Mayor Bloomberg, in his third term as mayor, has decided to put an end to such a ridiculous Kafkaesque situation. It won’t end over night however. Rubber Room attendees will not face imminent termination. That means that more than 600 teachers will continue to draw salaries, get their summer vacations, and watch their pension benefits accumulate, while boards of education look for ways to lay off good teachers and refuse to hire new ones, all because of budget shortfalls.

Under new rules that go into effect in September and agreed to by the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), new teachers accused of wrong doing will not be sent to the Rubber Rooms. Instead, they will be assigned to performing clerical duties outside of schools. If their cases are considered minor, they will perform non-teaching duties in their schools. Those accused of sexual abuse or financial wrongdoing could be suspended with pay. The most serious charges could result in suspensions without pay, and one can only wonder why sexual abuse would not automatically be considered a serious transgression.

This charade of pedagogic justice proves how injurious unions can be. It is no wonder that the majority of American have a low opinion of unions.

expert labor relations advice