The Union Wars and Overpaid Public Employees

Open Letters

This actually has nothing to do with unions. At least not the current union business. It does have to do with the ongoing (about once – in earnest- every two year bloodbath wherein a public sector, usually unionized, gets slaughtered in the media and court of public opinion for having the audacity to stand up for their rights).

Usually the hot button issue is salary. But, let’s be clear, it’s rarely about salary for us. More so ‘human rights’ (the right to negotiate the working terms of our contracts) and the inequity of being maligned in the public eye and used by the government as scapegoats to pay off, or pay down, a deficit we didn’t create.

Most of what I hear about teachers can be chalked up to ignorance; to the fact that most of us have been to the dentist a bunch of times but don’t feel qualified, after sitting in that chair, to carry out the job of a dentist, but feel totally justified in imagining that we know what it’s like to be a teacher. Some dot-jots might help:

– We get summers off. Yes, we used to be an agrarian society and farmers needed their children to be out of school to help work the fields. It isn’t a glorified vacation, or some sweet deal we negotiated.

-It isn’t a paid vacation. We are paid for the hours we spend AT work, IN the classroom. The pay is calculated and divided into lump sums to be given to us every two weeks – still ONLY based on hours worked.

-We don’t get paid for the coaching, supervisions at night, dances, trips, etc., that we take time away from our families to do so other people’s children have a well-rounded learning experience. We do it because we love it.

-Those sick days and perks that others are so jealous of? We got those in past negotiations INSTEAD of higher salaries. So, when they get stripped in current ‘negotiations’ it amounts to a paycut because they weren’t things given to us without sacrifices in other areas.

-I have three degrees and spent seven years in university to become a professional in my field. I am helping to prepare, for life and society, our country’s greatest asset – your children. I care and invest in them as my life’s work. Treating teachers like scum sends a terrible message about the value of our role in raising the next generation.

-The fight we often step into, in standing up for our rights, is one that sets the terms for the kind of rights your children will have when they enter the workforce.

-We ARE taking one for the team and doing our part, and have been for the past 6 years at least (salary freezes, no seniority or cost of living increases, while HST and cost of living has made our expenses, and yours, higher)

-Yes, there are bad, lazy teachers. And office workers. And police officers. And engineers. And assembly line workers. And… pretty much every job has some employees who don’t do a fantastic job.

-The teaching market is SUPER saturated. Qualified, eager teachers and waiting years to get their foot in the door. If we didn’t love our profession, we would be doing something else.

-Our job isn’t easy. Neither is yours. But I wouldn’t presume to tell you what your job is like, seeing as how I don’t work there. I have one of the most rewarding jobs I can imagine. Truly. I love it, but don’t so much love having people speculate about how easy it would be to do it, or indulging the stereotypes that each profession suffers under.

-Bottom line: Please don’t begrudge those who have employment, benefits and job security the fact that they have the things all hard-working people should have. Yes, we have pensions – we pay into them and, in this society, rather than trying to claw back gains by groups of unionized workers and pettily scorning them for having (gasp) future financial security, why don’t we work harder to make sure ALL citizens have adequate care, safety, living wages, health and financial security for their futures? Wouldn’t this make our society more productive and secure?

For a really fun overview of how much teachers make, which completely explains why we are so overpaid, check out the following breakdown by Meredith Menden:

“Teachers’ hefty salaries are driving up taxes, and they only work nine or ten months a year! It’s time we put things in perspective and pay them for what they do — babysit!We can get that for less than minimum wage.

That’s right. Let’s give them $3.00 an hour and only the hours they worked; not any of that silly planning time, or any time they spend before or after school. That would be $19.50 a day (7:45 to 3:00 PM with 45 min. off for lunch and planning — that equals 6-1/2 hours).So each parent should pay $19.50 a day for these teachers to baby-sit their children. Now how many students do they teach in a day…maybe 30? So that’s $19.50 x 30 = $585 a day.

However, remember they only work 180 days a year!!! I am not going to pay them for any vacations.


That’s $585 X 180= $105,300 per year. (Hold on! My calculator needs new batteries).

What about those special education teachers and the ones with Master’s degrees? Well, we could pay them minimum wage ($7.75), and just to be fair, round it off to $8.00 an hour. That would be $8 X 6-1/2 hours X 30 children X 180 days = $280,800 per year.

Wait a minute — there’s something wrong here! There sure is!

The average teacher’s salary (nationwide) is $50,000.

$50,000/180 days = $277.77 per day / 30 students = $9.25 / 6.5 hours = $1.42 per hour per student — a very inexpensive baby-sitter and they even EDUCATE your kids!)


Meredith Menden


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