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More than one reader has written to remind me of a famous utterance by Al Shanker, the late teacher-union chief: “When schoolchildren start paying union dues, that’s when I’ll start representing the interests of schoolchildren.” Shanker was one of the better — more sensible, more civic-minded — union chiefs in the country. Which may tell us something about the state of American unionism.

As I said earlier, it’s one thing if teachers just want to be hard-core unionists, no different from the least pretentious laborers you can think of. It’s just the “for the children” stuff that’s so hard to swallow. At least the longshoremen, when pursuing their demands, don’t bore and nauseate us with for-the-children theater.

Longshoremen say, “Gimme the money, or else.” That’s better. Far more honest.



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