Or whatever dark corner the Koch brothers skulk in. There’s no shortage of villains on this Halloween night.

On Janus Street, where Middleville Elementary occupies a prominent place where the street intersects with Florida Avenue, teachers are gathered as the longtime dominance of the Reds continues in the legislature. Not satisfied with the erosion of union rights after the Janus decision, the Reds pressed on.

“No longer will honorable citizens and productive workers have to be under the abusive union contracts that teacher unions negotiate,” said House Speaker Oliver Jay. “It’s not about agency fees, it’s about freeing teachers to make their own deals with the schools that employ them. We have passed legislation, which Governor Sanctimonious has signed, that allows any teacher who wishes to opt out of union negotiations and the resulting contract. They are free to make their own deal and negotiate their salary.”

Jeremy P. crowed at this announcement. He immediately signed a paper that said he renounced the union contract under which he had been employed. “No more,” he muttered to the air. “No more. I am free.”

Jeremy made his deal. Although he wanted a three-year contract, his school only offered him one. Yet he signed. He actually signed for less pay (because he had not the power of numbers), but his contract included many incentives that he was sure would boost his pay by tens of thousands of dollars once the annual test results rolled in.

“Showed you,” he told his fellow teachers. “I’m worth more than three of you put together.”

But he could not anticipate what came next.

First, he was given lunch duty. He protested, “Teachers get 30 minutes a day to eat lunch apart from students.”

“That’s under the union contract,” his principal replied. “But you, you made your own deal and nothing in your contract says you get 30 minutes of duty-free lunch. But hey! You like the kids, right?”

Jeremy didn’t like the look on his principal’s face. “Okay,” he said, “I’ll eat on my planning period. With 90 minutes a day, I can get my work done and eat, too.”

“Didn’t I tell you? I’ve reduced your planning time to 15 minutes a day. That should be sufficient for parent conferences and other contacts you need to make. We’ve scheduled you for other work during that time.”

“When am I supposed to plan lessons? When am I going to grade student work? I need my planning time. Other teachers get the time.”

“Oh, but they have a contract with negotiated work conditions that I must comply with as much as I hate doing so.”

Jeremy cursed. His principal frowned.

“Sorry,” he said.

“Good thing you apologized because you no longer have the protection of a progressive disciplinary policy. I could have fired you on the spot.”

“I need some time to wrap my head around this. See you tomorrow,” Jeremy said. “It’s 5:00 PM and I’m ready to get out of here.”

His principal laughed. “While your fellow teachers, your Union teachers, have negotiated work hours, you do not. Remember, you don’t need the union. You wanted to make your own deal. From now on, you will arrive 90 minutes before the school day begins because I need you to supervise the students who are on campus. Yes, the parents aren’t supposed to drop them off that early, but they do. Now I have someone to watch the little buggers.

“Parents work all day. They need to meet with teachers at night. From now on, you will stay until 8 PM every Tuesday and Thursday to meet with parents who want to see you.”

Jeremy spluttered. “No one can work those hours. It’s exhausting.”

“Also, you will work two Saturdays a week from 8 AM to Noon. We can really make progress on our state tests with you tutoring the students for the extra hours.”

“At least I’ll get paid for it. How much?”

“Ha, ha, ha. You get no overtime. You get no pay. I can assign all the hours and days I want. You didn’t want a union contract, you wanted out, and you made your own deal. As one little person, a very tiny cog in a very large machine, how much leverage do you think you have?

“Gone! All the benefits that labor fought for and won over the past century: 40-hour work weeks, overtime pay, and health/pension benefits. Gone! All the protections teachers’ unions have secured for their members: defined work hours, duty-free lunch, guaranteed planning time, limits on after-hours meetings, and more. Gone! I can fire you for any reason and I don’t need a reason. Plan your lessons on your own time, but be sure to fill out the 25-page template I designed for my Ph.D. dissertation. As for grading, you will not leave the campus until every day’s work is graded and entered into the online grade book. You have no say, you have no power. But be sure to be done by 10 PM. I don’t want the custodians staying late because of you. They still have a union and the overtime rate is a killer!”

Jeremy woke in a cold sweat. Dark vapors of the night clouded him. He was terrified, but he wasn’t going to wait for the sun to rise.

He arose, put a robe over his PJs, and went into his study. He found the union card he had been given when he opted out. He signed it, put a stamp on it, and went into the night to put it into the nearest mailbox.


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