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Mon, March 25

Cantlon: Teachers, don’t be nice

Teachers have 5 demands


Striking teachers need to not worry about being nice.

There’s been some debate whether a walkout will help or hurt the public support of the teachers’ cause.

Teachers should consider this: This action, which is only partly a wage strike but also a civic action on behalf of education, is not a popularity contest. It’s a tough negotiation. By definition, when it’s gotten to the point of a strike, it’s past any cordial finding of middle ground. That stage is over and now it’s on to applying all the leverage you have.

Of course, you want to gain as much popular support as you can, especially when the solution might come down to some ballot initiative and voters’ choices, but when everything short of a strike has gotten you nowhere, then even if you may not want to play tough, you’ve been backed into a corner and given no other option. It is not so much you choosing to strike. It’s that the other side has chosen to take advantage and cut and cut, and shift funds out of public schools, and keep going further and further until they can see just where it is that it won’t be put up with anymore. They’ve chosen to go that route. You’re just the ones stuck with having to do something about it.

Bet you didn’t know big civic action and wrestling with the legislature was going to be part of the job, huh? You not only have to be the adults in the room with the kids, you have to be the adults in the room with the legislature.

Since you’re virtually forced to strike and incur all the costs that come with that, in terms of any potential loss of public support, loss in terms of the kids who you really don’t want to walk out on, and any lost pay or other impacts, since you’re already having to take this

big step, don’t settle for any small payoff. This is bare knuckle negotiations. The other side has gotten away with all they can, and they’ll try anything to settle it while conceding the absolute minimum – like Gov. Doug Ducey’s suggestion, which is merely proposed, ill-funded, and partial. It’s not likely you can have another strike for a long time if you settle for too little this time, so get everything you can from it. Drain every last drop of concessions you can out of the leverage a strike gives you.

You’re going to get a lot of flak from the legislature and opponents about the negative effects of a strike, the lost school days, the families having to make arrangements, and more. You don’t own that. If they didn’t want such consequences they should have funded education and shouldn’t have left you with no alternative. The negative consequences? That’s on them.

It’s not a popularity contest. It’s not about being nice. Being nice has allowed school funding and wages to shrink to where they are. Enough of that. Realize that the lawmakers are resourceful and practiced opponents. Cinch up your belt, know that you’re in a ruthlessly tough negotiation, and press that leverage as far as it will go.

Tom Cantlon is a local business owner and writer and can be reached at comments at


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