From the Palm Beach Post
by Frank Cerabino
I was talking to Daniel Rubin, the guy who represents Palm Beach County’s public school janitors.
“I hope you realize that you’re one of the people who are ruining America,” I told him.
“I hear that a lot these days,” he said.
We were talking about Newt Gingrich’s call to action to replace “unionized janitors” with children at public schools.
“You’re totally poor. You’re in a school that is failing with a teacher that is failing. I tried for years to have a very simple model,” Gingrich, the latest Republican presidential front-runner, said recently during a speech at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. “Most of these schools ought to get rid of the unionized janitors. Have one master janitor and pay local students to take care of the school.”
It’s about time we’ve had somebody stand up for the rights of 9- to 14-year-old workers who have had their employment opportunities blocked by “silly child laws” and all those fat-cat union janitors, who in Palm Beach County earn $11.50 an hour, on average.
That amounts to a staggering annual income of nearly $24,000 a year for these unionized wipe-abouts!
Idea’s offensive, likely against the law
“Many of these workers are below the federal poverty line for a family of four,” said Rubin, who represents the nearly 1,000 public school janitors in Palm Beach County who belong to the Service Employees International Union.
Yes, but the good news is that by eliminating jobs for these working poor, they can be replaced by their poverty-stricken children at even lower wages.
It’s downsizing on more than one level.
“It’s completely offensive, and outside the fact that it’s outrageous, it’s also probably illegal,” Rubin said.
Who cares about illegal? We’re in a race to the 19th century. There’s a Republican primary to win.
And this is a lovely trifecta for Republican Party voters: It kindles a new way to demonize union work, while finding a fresh vein of contempt for public education that, as a bonus, furthers the country-club stereotype that poverty is a self-inflicted condition caused by sloth.
“Are we going to theoretically be setting up 401(k)s for 8-year-olds?” Rubin asked.
Rubin’s thinking about it all the wrong way. Like a typical union guy, he’s looking out for labor here, and worrying about things like fair compensation and working conditions.
“It’s not safe for kids,” Rubin said.
Scrubbing toilets, living the dream
Not only does the job include working with heavy equipment and dangerous chemicals, but half the staff works at night, when the school is closed, he said.
“There’s usually two janitors working at a time and they’re at opposite ends of the school,” Rubin said.
Yes, but these kids will be living the American Dream, working for a “master” before they’re out of elementary school, and learning that if they play their cards right, and toil in the darkened hallways of their school instead of doing their homework, they too could grow into a poverty-level full-time job free of the meddlesome interference of labor unions.
It was no use explaining this all to Rubin, who was clearly biased against the wisdom of a candidate who is widely regarded as the deep thinker among his primary rivals.