It is likely that you missed this story; a gaggle of really conscientious kids sued the teacher’s union in California, because these kids feel really, really, really super strongly about their education. These go-getter kiddos realized that it was that thing called “tenure” that helps all those horribly inept educators keep them from that god-given education they so richly desire. And wouldn’t you know it those kids won, and now tenure is over in California, and all those nasty teachers, paid at the top of the scale, as prescribed by a contract signed by the state, can now be fired. The corporate media heralded the win by these 9 great kids over those evil unions who just want to protect terrible teachers. Oh, wait, not so fast!
Apparently it really isn’t about the kids, and certainly not these 9 little urchins, apparently pulled straight from central casting to divert charges of racism by anti-union, pro-corporate lawyers to cover a high finance, high stakes assault on unions and teachers. Remember how outraged we all were at terrorists reportedly using civilians as human shields? Well, not all terrorists carry a gun, some of them carry a briefcase and a writ.
The case, Vergara v. California, was indeed brought by those 9 school children, but the evidence clearly points to a supreme manipulation by anti-union activists and zealots hoping to inspire a national precedent that would undermine and dismantle seniority, the cornerstone of union organization. A good thing you say, to rid the world of this unfair scourge? Not so fast. The reasons for seniority are many fold, including the achievement of levels of expertise and experience. It is also protection from discrimination, preventing unscrupulous employers from firing workers because of their age, their wage or to rob them of a pension earned over the course of a career.
Behind our 9 blissful angels in California is a veritable who’s who of corporate and white collar attorneys and a couple of billionaires. Heading up the legal team are Theodore B. Olson, co-lead counsel for Plaintiffs in Vergara v. California, and Theodore J. Boutrous, Jr., partners in the law firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. Call me cynical that Mr. Olson was Solicitor General of the United States during the Bush Administration 2001-2004, and was part of Reagan’s Justice Department from 1981-84. Why, Mr. Olson just happened to argue both Bush v. Gore cases after the 2000 presidential election, and Citizens United. Now it seems Olson just wants to help out some kids who busted open their piggy banks for a better education.
There is more here, much more, and I am just skimming the surface. The curious thing is whether several of the attorneys on this auspicious dream-team of corporate ambulance tailpipe suckers had trained previously for this very case. Joshua S. Lipshutz and Theane Evangelis-neither of them kids by the way-and both with, you guessed it, Gibson, Dunn & blah, blah, blah both worked for Chief Judge Alex Kozinski of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
That name might not sound familiar to most, although rather comedically Kozinski, appointed to the Ninth Circuit by Ronald Reagan, “maintained,” The Los Angeles Times reported in 2008 “a publicly accessible website featuring sexually explicit photos and videos.” While that isn’t necessarily significant, Kozinski was heavily criticized over Elk Grove Unified School District v. Newdow, another education issue that was to have national implications. What emerges along with a fleet of lawyers known and experienced in championing power establishment and elites, working to protect companies accused of everything from clean water act violations to sexual harassment and discrimination, is an attempt at precedence destined to assail a teacher’s union near you. And they, in my opinion, are loathe to repeat the travails of past cases.
The organizers are doing this nasty work from behind children. On their website this seemingly innocuous group describes “Students Matter’ as a national non-profit organization dedicated to sponsoring impact litigation to promote access to quality public education. With the help of Students Matter, nine California public school children filed the statewide lawsuit Vergara v. California against the State of California in May 2012 to strike down the laws handcuffing schools from doing what’s best for kids when it comes to teachers.” Sounds like something kids would write to me.
But this isn’t about teachers union and tenure. It is about much, much more. If left unchallenged Vergara v. California will resonate far beyond education. This will open the door to challenges that could allow companies to openly and with impunity fire older, senior and mature workers because they are nearing retirement, or because they can be jettisoned in favor of lower earning younger workers. While that may, and likely does happen now in the shadows, this ruling opens the door for a virtual genocide on workers with seniority, driving down wages and increasing the gap between the uber-wealthy and the rest of us.