Beis Moshiach
  • Is a Teachers Strike Legitimate?

    From the desk of Rabbi Gershon Avtzon, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivas Lubavitch Cincinnati: Teachers working for a Chabad school have had consistent missed paychecks. This problem is causing the atmosphere in school to take a turn for the worse. Some teachers are discussing the possibility of conducting an organized strike, as many teachers’ unions do worldwide. Is this acceptable? • Full Story

    Question:

    I am a teacher at a Chabad school. We work very hard and our compensation is not very big to begin with. Over the last few months, the administration has missed several payments and it is really affecting the atmosphere of the school. Some of the teachers are suggesting an organized strike by all teachers until all payments are made. Inside my heart, I do not feel that striking is a Chassidishe approach, but I would appreciate guidance.

     

    Answer:

    The Rebbe writes (Igros, Vol. 8 p. 349; #2608): “I have written many times that I am surprised at the mindset and attitude of some of the teachers to the Chabad institution in which they teach. They view themselves as people who are working for ‘others’; thus, if there are disagreements with the administration, they begin looking for other opportunities. This is a completely faulty mindset, as the true owner of the institution is the Rebbe, thus anyone who merits to work in the institution should realize that through their work is the channel for all the brachos in ruchnius and gashmius…

    If this is the perspective, things would be much different, as no person that has access to a real treasure would threaten to give it up and leave for the opportunity to collect a few dollars elsewhere.”

    In 5715 (1955), there were a group of teachers that were planning a strike. The Rebbe responded (Igros, Vol. 10 p. 55; #3018) the following, not before the introduction that “Because of my great pain upon receiving their letter about a proposed strike, I am hurriedly responding and even skipping over answering letters that were received before theirs.”

     

    5 Reason Striking Isn’t Acceptable

    The Rebbe is completely against the idea and writes the following general points:

    (1) Students missing out time of learning is a travesty. Even if the teachers have justifiable grievances against the administration, it is not right that the students should be punished… Time is something that can not be made-up, especially the time of learning of children, as one hour of a child’s education is equated with the value of a few hours of an adult.

    (2) Everyone understands that there was no intentional hurt by the administration. If there was money available, or easily accessible, they would gladly give it to the teachers. Thus it is not right to intentionally strike against an injustice which was done unintentionally.

    (3) The most important point: The strike will eternally alter and destroy the pure hashkafa (worldview) of the students of the school. [Whereas we are trying to educate them to value the spiritual over the physical – RGA] if the strike goes forward, they will see clearly that the people who profess these ideals are ready to sacrifice the learning and spiritual advancement of their students because of their physical needs.

    (4) This will also negatively affect their future behavior. Since they have witnessed by their educators that we punish vulnerable people (the students) on the account of a grievance of another (the administration), they will incorporate that attitude into their future behaviour and interaction with others.

    (5) Not only should the teachers continue to teach, they should do so with a positive attitude. Success in education, and having a positive impact on the student, is very much dependent on the attitude of the teacher.

    The Rebbe ends the letter with the following clarification: “I am not even entering the halachic discussion if it is permissible for a teacher in a Torah institution to strike, as I am sure that in this clase it will not be necessary.”

     

    A Word to the Employers…

    It is obvious but important to point out: The Rebbe wants teachers to be treated well and to be paid on time. The Rebbe writes many strong letters to members of school administrations about how to properly interact with their staff.

    As an example, this is the Rebbe’s answer (translated from a handwritten note) concerning administrators preventing underpaid workers from seeking sources of income in addition to their work in their mossad:

    “I see no benefit coming both for mosdos or individual employers from oppressing their workers שי’ in their parnassa (and in general).

    If it is truly not at all possible for the mossad to pay them amply as they need for their livelihood — it is then imperative that the institution at least assist them to receive supplemental income “from the side” and of course not to be in their way of doing so.

    I have received complaints in this regard from many…”

    The above is directed at the teacher’s mindset and perspective.

     

    The Moshiach Connection: 

    Part of the trouble of galus is that our physical needs can interfere with our dedication to learning Torah.

    The Rambam (Hilchos Teshuva 9:1) writes that “we are promised by the Torah that if we fulfill it with joy and good spirit and meditate on its wisdom at all times, [G-d] will remove all the obstacles which prevent us from fulfilling it, for example, sickness, war, famine, and the like. Similarly, He will grant us all the good which will reinforce our performance of the Torah, such as plenty, peace, an abundance of silver and gold in order that we not be involved throughout all our days in matters required by the body, but rather, will sit unburdened and thus, have the opportunity to study wisdom and perform mitzvos in order that we will merit the life of the world to come.”

    The Rambam continus that “For these reasons, all Jews, [in particular,] their prophets and their Sages, have yearned for the Messianic age so they can rest from the [oppression of] the gentile kingdoms who do not allow them to occupy themselves with Torah and mitzvot properly.”

    May that time come speedily!

     

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