Ethics Quote of the Day: Calvin Coolidge

“There is no right to strike against the public safety by anybody, anywhere, any time.”

—-Calvin Coolidge, then Governor of Massachusetts, soon to be Vice-President and later President upon the death of Warren G. Harding, in a September 14, 1919 telegram to labor leader Samuel Gompers on the occasion of the Boston police department strike.

Cal made his words count.

The Boston police were fired for extorting the city, and Coolidge’s words were in the air when President Ronald Reagan responded to an illegal strike by air traffic controllers by firing the strikers and banning the union.

Now Chicago’s teachers are striking, not against the city management that is denying their demands, but against the children of the city and their families.

What would silent Cal say? I think I can guess. Harming children and families for higher wages is as much extortion as leaving a city unprotected against crime, and cannot be defended ethically. The defense will be, inevitably, “Well, management is unfair, and their offer is unjust. What are we supposed to do?”

The answer is: something else.

__________________________________

Facts: Chicago Tribune

Source: Wikipedia

Graphic: Washington, Jefferson and Madison Institute

Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work was used in any way without proper attribution, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at  jamproethics@verizon.net.

12 thoughts on “Ethics Quote of the Day: Calvin Coolidge

  1. Public Safety usually includes things like police, fire, and air traffic controllers, doesn’t it? Is any strike allowed if annoyance becomes a public safety objection?

  2. I like that the police are being sent in to “safeguard the children” and the mayor talked about how they need to keep the children safe during this strike. I assume the subtext here is that they expect the teachers to be violent during the strike, possibly treating the students like scab workers and attacking them? The students, it was explained, will still be going to school for breakfast and lunch because they wouldn’t be fed at home, but not to worry, the city will make sure they don’t learn anything (hopefully the teachers union won’t protest that making sure they don’t learn anything is the union’s job).

    I also like the part where it mentioned that the mayor had doubled the pay raise offered to 16% over 4 years (I am only getting 2% raises), that the district is heavily in debt, but the teachers want more.

    http://news.yahoo.com/emanuel-vows-end-strike-kids-back-class-070829013.html?_esi=1

    • The 16% raise in salary has been disputed, and to portray it as the only issue is misleading. There are also disagreements regarding class size, job security and teacher evaluation. It is irrelevant to the ethics of teachers going on strike, but at least give the entire picture.

      • The job security beef is infinitely worse than the salary issue. The 16% is over 4 years, for one thing. I have no problem with paying good teachers more, but the proposed linking of job security to academic performance is not unreasonable, and the fact that teachers want job security without performance standards (see: NYC) is damning.

        But again, irrelevant to the issue. Teachers must not strike.

        • Hate to get involved in the irrelevant issue, but I don’t think most teachers have a problem with linking academic performance to job security–they just don’t want it to be the sole measure of their performance. Good teachers hate bad teachers just as much as you do.

  3. The students, it was explained, will still be going to school for breakfast and lunch because they wouldn’t be fed at home, but not to worry, the city will make sure they don’t learn anything (hopefully the teachers union won’t protest that making sure they don’t learn anything is the union’s job)

    So with the strike, the students are learning as much as they did before the strike.

  4. Binding interest arbitration is the solution. Having been on both sides of the table for public safety labor negotiations I am increasingly convinced that labor and management can be motivated to compromise in order to avoid it, but if necessary arbitration can resolve issues with less extortion and fewer consequences for the kids.

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