“I am a man.” I don’t know what became of the marchers who asked that question. I was young at the time and Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination which coincided with this march overshadowed the outcome of workers seeking their rights.
Unions were strong at the time, and they were needed to insure these men obtained equal pay for equal work.
Unions brought us equal pay for equal work, not just between women and men, but additionally between Black and White. Unions supposedly ended sexual harassment of female employees by male supervisors. Unions brought us the weekend and overtime pay when working beyond 40 hours. Unions brought us rights, benefits, and pensions. Unions prevent principals from playing favorites and unions fight nepotism. Unions work and education proves it. States with a union workforce have higher test scores than states without union teachers.
In April 1983 “Nation at Risk” was written. All the ills of education were made bare to the public. It warned the path towards improving education would not be found by seeking scapegoats. The unions were lax in this regard. In the era of No Child Left Behind where urban administrators are making so many mistakes, where a teacher bashing environment exists, unions must become the cheerleader and think tank behind moving education in a positive direction. Are unions necessary? Just look how society has benefited from having unions. When unions become conservative in their support for teacher working conditions families of children in school suffer. No one should face the violence our inner-city schools tolerate. It exists because we the teachers let it exist. Someday fixing education will rank up there with the most important accomplishment unions will have created and then: I am a man will be replaced by I am a person.