# News Are Argentine education strikes justified?

1. Mar 7, 2012

### Arpegius

Hi! This is my first time posting here, although I have been browsing several posts for some months now. I appreciate your community's approach to truth and its skepticism, and I thought perhaps you could help me analyze this issue more efficiently.

I live in Buenos Aires, Argentina (South America) and right now we argentines are slowly but steadily shifting in the direction of economical and political chaos, mostly due to the last 3 presidential mandates from the same party.

Teaching, to me one of the most vital professions in a democracy, has also been one of the most ignored in my country. Teachers are poorly payed (a truck or subway driver earns several times more than them, actually) while our government spends hundreds of millions on demagogical projects and corrupted political deals.

During the past month, salary negotiations failed and the state refused to grant a rise to them (despite the presently uncontrollable 20-30% annual rise in inflation). Partly because of that and partly because of some shameful remarks from our president herself, they have decided to go into a nationwide strike for (up to now) two days, a resort very common among all syndicates here.

My question, then, is as follows:

Is depriving all of the children of a country of their education worth it? In other words, I understand the other ways have been unsuccesful in getting them what's due, but is affecting the innocent justified because of that?

I've spent some hours debating this with some people on Facebook and all they could come up with (they all had a marxist background, btw) is that strikes have historically been the best resource available to the working class when the state remains unresponsive, and that teachers would give a "good example to the kids" because they would be fighting for their rights.

I replied asking them precisely and briefly about the real ethics behind a strike (not its historical background) and then asking them if denying the basic right of education for a rise in pay (be it justified or not) would actually be a good example to a kid. Of course, from then on their responses degenerated into strawmen and ad hominem fallacies or simply prejudice, internal contradictions and disguised hate. I would attach the whole conversation, but the language barrier would probably make you miss most of it.

Thank you guys in advance for taking the time to read all of this.

2. Mar 7, 2012

### Ryan_m_b

Staff Emeritus
Re: Are education strikes justified?

Welcome to the forums! I'm unfortunately not clued up on internal Argentinian affairs (I'm from the UK and all news regarding Argentina is focused on our relationship) but I'm sorry to hear about the situation your teachers are in. Education is one of the most important things in a society and it needs to be properly funded. Regarding the strike I'm tentatively afraid to say that it probably is necessary, strikes stir up widespread public and political attention and force a situation to progress.

Perhaps you could provide some links to good sources that explain the situation well? Welcome again!

3. Mar 7, 2012

### HallsofIvy

Staff Emeritus
Re: Are education strikes justified?

If the strike is successful, then you are more likely to have good teachers. In the long run, that benefits the children.

4. Mar 7, 2012

### Staff: Mentor

Re: Are education strikes justified?

Everything I can find on this is that it's just a 48 hour strike. No big deal in terms of stopping teaching. I really don't understand why you have a problem with a two day strike.

http://laht.com/article.asp?ArticleId=366636&CategoryId=14093

5. Mar 7, 2012

### Number Nine

Re: Are education strikes justified?

What's the alternative? Declaring teachers to be "too important to strike" effectively puts them at the mercy of their employers. Should they have no negotiating power at all?

6. Mar 9, 2012

### mege

Re: Are education strikes justified?

Is that really true?

I tried looking for a semi-neutral source, but all of the 'strikes = good' arguements came from teacher-union sites and all of the 'strikes = bad' came from very clear anti-teacher union sites.

If the 'strike is successful' then wouldn't it mean that the existing teachers are getting paid more (via increase in benefits or salary) and then the school wouldn't be able to hire more teachers? Also, from my understanding, improving 'existing contracts' often comes at the expense of reduced pay for new hires. (so what few new teachers could be hired would be at a lower portential quality if salary and quality are considered equal from a new-hire competition standpoint)

7. Mar 9, 2012

### MarcoD

Re: Are education strikes justified?

I assume they want a larger cut from the state's expenses, so, no, it should only mean a raise and possible better facilitation.

As far as ethics goes, the right to strike is usually only taken away if a strike could result in physical harm. So health-care workers and policemen usually don't have a right to strike.

Then, of course, there are people who argue that any strike is illegal, but I don't really know their arguments.

8. Mar 9, 2012

### mege

Re: Are education strikes justified?

This is probably the largest beef I have with any public worker union (and thus their strikes). Whenever the bargainers want more, it comes from something else of public use or value ('larger cut from state expenses', what gets shrunk then?). There is no 'robber baron' at the top whom is profiting from the 'pitiful wages' at the bottom like there is possible in a large private corporation. Ultimately, a public worker strike of any type results in a sort of thug-democracy because they are overriding the available democratic processes for their own personal gain.

There is a harm to students whom have working parents. If the school is unavailable to the students (as expected) there is a great burden, ad hoc, put on the parents. This has the potential to put kids in harm by being left alone at home while the parents go to work (as they planned to do before the teacher's decided to abandon their jobs).

A factory strike effects the 'top' of the company (as it's meant to). I don't like strikes, but I fully understand (and respect) the impact they can have on a company. A public worker strike effects the general populace in a multitude of ways (unavailable taxpayer-paid services being the largest), and the effects only grow from there. There is not an 'individual's profit margin' that is harmed in a public worker strike, but instead the public workers are holding the public at large hostage for their demands. Since the only individuals that are generally swayed by a public-worker strike are elected officials (presuming they're the 'other end' of the contract table), we (tax payers) have basically paid for political pressure from a choice group of workers for their own gain.

9. Mar 9, 2012

### ThomasT

Re: Are education strikes justified?

So for the few days that children can't attend school because teachers want more money, then the children can be taught at home. What's the problem?

10. Mar 14, 2012

### Ryan_m_b

Staff Emeritus
Re: Are education strikes justified?

Exactly. By the same token it is right to strike for the public good and if the current situation is not within the public good and striking could make it so then a strike is what must be done.
Whilst I appreciate the sentiment I disagree entirely. The point here is that the teachers do not have satisfactory working pay, rights etc. The fact that there are other people who may be willing to fulfil that goal is mostly irrelevant to the fact that they deserve (and it would be better for the public) to get better pay and better conditions. By the same argument very few people should ever complain about their jobs because there are unemployed citizens, low-paid immigrants and workers in less developed countries who would jump at the chance of a job.

11. Mar 14, 2012

### Ryan_m_b

Staff Emeritus
Re: Are education strikes justified?

You are aware that this thread concerns Argentinian teachers and thus many of these may not apply? On top of that even with those things teachers have a very hard job in my country at least (the UK) with excessive working hours during term time (whilst the hours may technically be ~9-5 the extra hours marking, preparing etc take a toll). On top of that teachers do require a degree, job satisfaction varies on the school and public sector pay and pensions are being frozen and cut.

Regardless we should get back on topic to the situation in Argentina.

12. Mar 14, 2012

### ThomasT

Re: Are education strikes justified?

I don't understand why teachers would strike. Wrt what they actually do, they make more money than they're worth, imho.

13. Mar 15, 2012

### Ryan_m_b

Staff Emeritus
Are you trolling or are you actually suggesting that education isn't worth that much? It's been pointed out in this thread that truck drivers earn more than the people who work to educate and enlighten the next generation.

14. Mar 15, 2012

### ThomasT

Re: Are education strikes justified?

The OP asks whether education strikes are justified. I said that I don't understand why teachers would strike ... considering the actual work they do and the money they make.

Also, the tenure system makes it extremely difficult to fire bad teachers. Bad truck drivers or plumbers or electricians, etc., don't make much money. Probably less than bad teachers, I'm guessing.

15. Mar 15, 2012

### Ryan_m_b

Staff Emeritus
Re: Are education strikes justified?

The OP is talking about Argentinian strikes where they do not get paid good money at all. I'm still not sure by what you mean when you say "considering the actual work they do"; what part of working full time, often after and before you finish to plan for the next days/mark current work, dealing with children and having the responsiblity of ensuring a decent education is taught do you think is trivial as you seem to be implying?

Also I have no idea what it is like where you are but Tenure from where I'm from is reserved for select university lecturers, not primary and secondary education teachers and I suspect the same is true in Argentina.

http://www.teachersolidarity.com/bl...-teachers-join-forces-for-education/#more-825

16. Mar 15, 2012

### ThomasT

Re: Are education strikes justified?

Yes, it appears that teachers are worse off in Argentina than in the US. In their case it seems that strikes are necessary.

Here's another discussion on the topic:

http://baexpats.org/culture/4303-public-state-school-teachers-salaries-ba.html

17. Mar 17, 2012

### mege

Re: Are education strikes justified?

I'm pretty sure ThomasT is talking about US teachers.

Public grade-school teachers in the US obtain tenure via a permanent contract with similar protections as University Professors. (http://www.education.com/magazine/article/what-is-teacher-tenure/)

Generally speaking a Primary/Secondary educator will be on a per-annum contract for 3-5years before being accepted as a tenured teacher. The idea of grade-school teachers obtaining tenure is a point of contention regarding education reform in the US, and the exact privledges granted by the permanent contract vary slightly state-to-state.

Regardless of the tenure policies in Argentina, should their actual working conditions have a bearing on if they should be able to strike? Should a law be written "Public educators are only allowed to strike if sufficently poor working conditions exist"? Then you're not really preventing the strikes at all. I still think that public worker strikes are in poor taste because the outcome can only really take away from another public good - which is very undemocratic*. The workers of the state are dictating funding arrangements to the government then.

*If the public worker strike is successful, the public worker has essentially 'doubled their influence' on the government. They can vote in general elections and they can hold the government (and tax payers) hostage with their all-in bargaining techniques. This gives them an extreme and (IMO) undue influence on policy. Public workers have a chance to influence policy decisions at the ballot box like everyone else. Why should they be afforded an extra influence?

18. Mar 17, 2012

### Ryan_m_b

Staff Emeritus
Re: Are education strikes justified?

Two points: firstly such a law would be almost impossible to write as it would have to define appropriate working conditions and whilst the law does protect workers with things like minimum wage, health and safety etc it can't say whether or not government policies are fair. Secondly you have to consider the long term public good otherwise that's an argument against any public sector strike. It could be that this strike is successful, increases resources to education and increases societal well-being as a result.
Striking is a form of practical democracy. A democratic society cannot maintain itself simply by voting (unless you are advocating some sort of direct democracy), there must be other avenues. I don't know how it is in the US but in the UK for a strike to be legal various checks have to be completed such as a vote being put forth to all members about whether or not to strike. Finally if they do strike and their position is against public will then the strike will fail, this is democracy in action! If a sector threatened to maintain a strike for a long time and public will was against it then political will would work around it by providing alternate infrastructure e.g. if fire fighters strike the military are bought in. At the end of the day a striking labour force cannot succeed against public will.

19. Mar 21, 2012

### Arpegius

I've been reading your answers for the past weeks; thank you all for the feedback you provided. I've come to the conclusion that perhaps I was overreacting, and that moralism is useless when it is seen as a weakness by politicians. Desperate times justify desperate actions, and I guess our deficient government forced their hand.

The national strike lasted several days, and even today some provinces and universities continue to sporadically strike. The last offer from within the government was a monthly minimum base salary of 2800 AR$(That's about 609 USD$/month, with an interannual inflation rate of about 30% and a 2011 fiscal deficit of 34 Billion AR$). The teacher's syndicate is currently evaluating whether to accept the terms or continue striking. Yes, Kirchnerism has been inflating the Falklands/Malvinas issue by the use empty nationalism in order to divert the public's attention from our socio-economical decline. Same thing the dictatorship did several decades ago. It seems we people never learn. Sadly, this isn't true in Argentina. Several large-scale construction projects have been used by our government to launder money. Political parties affiliated to Kirchnerism receive ample money incentives (just to name an example, some students in my university get a monthly 8.000 - 12.000 AR$ for voting in favour of a particular student-political-party's projects) and so do the people that gather to support our president's speeches and clap to them (yes, they are paid to clap at her). Moreover, 1 Billion AR\$ are wasted on subsidies to televised soccer and rally, and partial TV shows that portrait their party as the best one this country has ever had. In a nutshell: The money's there, it's only being used to promote their own goals instead of the country's.

This is, for the vast majority of our population, not a valid option. The working class, on average, needs to work all day, and home-schooling is expensive as hell.

I'm not completely sure, but I think there's no tenure system system in Argentina (certainly not for sub-university education). Truck drivers have a strong syndicate here (maybe too strong) and they get a salary many, many times higher than that of a teacher. When they feel such wage is not enough, they unanimously strike all across our land and our economy paralyzes. Same can be said for the workers on the subway of Buenos Aires, and they behave similarly.