updated 03:20 pm EST, Fri February 23, 2007
Teachers demand apology
The California Federation of Teachers has invited Apple CEO Steve Jobs to either attend an annual CFT convention next month or offer a public apology for his "insulting comments" to California's teachers. Should Jobs fail to apologize or neglect to attend the conference, where he is encouraged to speak with the people who educate California's children and hear from them what the situation is like, the CFT will create a new award specifically for Apple's chief. "We'll call it the Rotten Apple, for the individual who best personifies the need to think differently about public education and teacher unions," California Federation of Teachers president Mary Bergan wrote in a letter to the executive. Bergan aggressively rebuted Jobs' statement to an educational reform conference last week, where he expressed belief that the schools have become unionized "in the worst possible way" and that the unionization with lifetime employment of K-12 teachers is "off-the-charts crazy."
Bergan offers a history of Apple's "Think Different" ad campaign, pointing to the Cupertino-based company's black and white photos featuring instantly recognizable heroes such as Latino civil rights icon Cesar Chavez. The CFT president says Apple resisted granting union recognition to its low paid largely Latino contracted Silicon Valley janitorial workforce in the 1990s until the Justice for Janitors union embarrassed the computer maker sufficiently "to bring Jobs and his company around."
Another icon shown in black and white by Apple in its now-dated advertisement campaign was famed physicist Albert Einstein, who as Bergan points out was fond of teacher unions. Quoting Einstein, Bergan writes: "I consider it important, indeed urgently necessary, for intellectual workers to get together, both to protect their own economic status and also, generally speaking, to secure their influence in the political field."
The head of the group noted that Einstein joined the American Federation of Teachers in 1938 as a charter member of the Princeton University local, highlighting the fact that the famed scientist "practiced what he preached."
"I guess it's harder for a billionaire CEO of a non-union company to understand," Bergan wrote. "It's easier, 'think different' aside, to simply mouth something that's been repeated a lot over the years: teacher unions are the problem in public education."
The group leader says the big problem is actually under-funding, and contested Jobs' likening of public education to a business.
"Let me do the same. How well could a business -- say, a computer company -- operate if you paid its professional employees so poorly and put them in work environments so unsupportive that nearly half of them left the company within five years?" Bergan asks. "How long could that business survive if it had to hold bake sales to get enough chips to build its machines?"