Teachers are Selfish For Striking, Refs Are Fighting For Justice

As a teacher in the Chicago suburbs, it was hard to miss everyone on their soapbox last week as people who are not normally interested in discussing politics weighed in on just how appropriate (or not) they felt the teachers’ strike was. Most comments were coupled with a disgust that teachers dare ask for more money, better benefits or any kind of job security.

One of my friends summed up the general public’s point of view best when she said, “Most people get paid less than teachers and don’t have any kind of job security. If they want what’s best for the children, they really should just go back to work like the rest of us and quit complaining.” I was met with equal resistance when I countered any such arguments with the rationale that better pay and benefits makes and attracts better, happier teachers which, in turn, makes better, happier students, or the fact that teachers have one of the most important jobs in the world – educating our nation’s youth – and should be paid accordingly.

However, once the strike was officially declared over and students went back to school, things fizzled out and not many people have mentioned it since.

But this week there was another group of people striking for fair pay: NFL referees.

Yesterday, though, as I was scrolling through my personal Facebook feed, I saw post after post complaining about the bad call by the stand in referees at the end of Monday night’s Packers versus Seahawks game. Status updates and comical, meme-style pictures joked about how incapable the stand-ins are and complained about how they cost the Packers the game.

Not one post criticized the locked-out referees for being selfish in asking for better pay, benefits and job security.

Sure, football fans everywhere — and Packers fans especially — want the regular referees to get back to work, but why isn’t the general public talking about the referees’ strike as they were the teachers’? Fortunately, the refs reached a deal earlier today.

While it might be easy to say that the referees had actually been locked out by the owners and didn’t initiate the strike themselves, the fact remains that, if the refs took what was being offered to them, they could get back to work and start calling those plays, and all would be right with the world. This makes the two situations strikingly similar — similar enough to use the same rhetoric to discuss the two: If you can say about the teachers’ strike that most people don’t have unions so they should take what they are given or that teachers should have gotten back to work and quit their complaining, you can say the same about the referees.

People aren’t using the same rhetoric to complain about the two situations, though, because of our society’s priorities. Of course, most people value education, but they also value their tax dollars. Since teachers are paid primarily from tax dollars, and no one wants to pay more in taxes to account for higher teacher salaries, teachers are often paid less. Referees are paid by the billionaire owners, and getting the refs back to work is a matter of $250,000 per team – pocket change for these powerhouses. Therefore, the protests turn more toward the owners and their greed rather than toward the referees and theirs.

We must not forget, also, that football is king in America. While the general public values education, they absolutely love their football. It’s much easier to criticize something you value than it is to criticize something you love. As a society, we also tend to believe that sports and sports officials have a special set of skills and talents and should be paid for those skills and talents. However, we tend to believe that anyone can be trained to be a teacher, so that skill set isn’t special enough to warrant more pay.

For both teachers and referees – and any other union job – it’s not about striking. It’s about using the only tool we have in our belts to ensure we have the best possible working conditions. Many people disagree with that method and, in a democratic society, that is their right. However, use caution when discussing union actions; what works for one group works for the other, too.

Congrats to the NFL refs for reaching an agreement this morning!


Related Stories:

Why We Should Support the Chicago Teacher’s Strike

The Myth of the Education Crisis

10 Reasons Segregation in Schools Still Exists


Photo Credit: Ed Yourdon


Duane B.
.4 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill5 years ago

Actually I think they are both selfish with so many out of work.

Cheryl L.
Cheryl L5 years ago

Carrie H.: --- You nailed it!! I think one of those corporate unions must be the Chamber of Commerce that putting up tons of money to keep the Republicans in office and fighting the Democrats and the people of this country. I wonder if any of them ever thinks about the end result of their war against America's workers ... that once they've stripped us of a decent wage and benefits, our homes, our health care, etc. .... there's nothing left over for the consumer to spend on their products. Big business sure isn't buying much or investing in our country or our citizens. You get out of it what you put into it. Smart people will be looking to leave this country. Our money here isn't worth a plug nickel. If Republicans buy the White House, there won't be anything left here for the 98 or 99%.

janet T.
janet t5 years ago

Isn't it interesting that americans take their sports more seriously than they do the future of the next generation??? That goes also for TV, our phones, and a lot of other things.

Frances C.
Frances C.5 years ago

Carrie, You are absolutely right. Workers need Unions!

Obama Biden 2012

Carrie H.
Carrie H5 years ago

WE need more and STRONGER UNIONS business have unions they join together and lobby together all the time.

Maureen Hawkins
Maureen Hawkins5 years ago

Let's be honest. A lot of Americans DON'T value education--otherwise, why would they want their kids to be taught creationism & abstinence only sex education? Why would Indiana pass a law making pi 3 just to make calculation easier, though, of course, inaccurate? All they want is free child-care to make their lives more convenient. They want to have sex (within marriage, of course) & then abandon the resulting children, and because they don't value those children, they don't value their baby-sitters, either.

Tom W.
Tom W.5 years ago

@Berry P.
I never heard anyone say they didn't like their job. You must be responding to the wrong article. Were you referring to the Tea Baggers complaining about this country? I guess they should just leave according to you. It's union members wanting to improve conditions in their job.

Karl Murphy
Karl Murphy5 years ago

It sucks that the American people are the ones that support this nonsense in football. Screw the NFL, screw anyone involved in pro sports striking when they make tons of money, and screw the fans that support this ridiculous crap.
After the last MLB strike, I never supported baseball again. I am not a fan anymore and refuse to watch it. I wish everyone would have followed my lead and I wish everyone would have done the same for any other pro sport that has these issues.

Teachers striking because they have piss poor benefits and poor pay while working what I think is an extremely difficult job should not be criticized at all. It's sad that football is more important to the people in this country than educating the future generations. I realize football is more exciting, but doesn't anyone care about keeping this country going instead of watching it crumble around us?

Berny p.
Berny p5 years ago

IF you dont like the job....dont do it!