Randi Weingarten, president of NYC’s United Federation of Teachers, acted against the public interest by defending parking placards for teachers, as just another type of benefit and digging in her heels to protect the status quo.
Unions are a controversial part of our society and economy. Years of conservative framing have made many citizens deeply suspicious of unions, though they defend people against blatantly unfair treatment. At the same time, they often fight for very narrow interests rather than what’s good for their industries, the workforce, or the economy, making citizens mistrustful of their power. Weingarten’s fight to protect parking permits is the sort of action that harms public goodwill for very little benefit.
As the comments on Edwize, the UFT’s own blog, reveal, teachers don’t agree that they need parking. Most schools have accessible public transit and little parking space, yet as Streetsblog tells us, teachers, cops and firefighters are twice as likely to drive, even from neighborhoods where most residents commute by transit. Teachers who do take transit don’t benefit from the parking placard giveaway.
Instead of subsidizing driving, as the permit program does, we could find better solutions. Teachers in less accessible schools could receive an added salary bonus, which they could use to drive and pay to park, or take transit and afford taxis from time to time, or move closer to the school. By giving out free parking, the only solution available to the teacher is to drive. We should instead give teachers freedom and resources to solve mobility problems on their own.
Weingarten could have argued for this, or a cash-out law like California’s or (as one Edwize commenter suggests) paired her criticism with support for congestion pricing. High rates of asthma, obesity, and dangerous streets affect children and teachers more than the need for parking. The UFT’s slogan is “teachers want what children need.” Children don’t need school administrators using their playgrounds as parking lots.