As a national organization dedicated to purposeful action to support educational professionals and America’s children, we would be remiss in our mission if we were to take lightly presidential candidate Chris Christie’s recent statement on CNN that the national teachers union deserves a “punch in the face” for being the most “destructive force” in America. Our duty must extend beyond a call to action to expose a presidential candidate’s bullying attack on teachers unions. Now is the time to show how these statements are symptomatic representations of what is a national agenda.
The 21st century in the United States is a time of profound social inequality, with great economic prosperity for the few and a steady erosion of the safety net for the rest of us. It is incumbent on educators to expose the systemic tearing away of the fibers of unionism itself through this and countless other attacks. These attacks have come not only from presidential candidate Christie, but from politicians and public figures that stand to directly and personally benefit from seeing an end to unions in this country. Christie’s statement is a call to arms for all unions to unite against the common enemies who have union busting agendas as we face future battles, including the impending Supreme Court decision in the Friedrichs vs. California Teachers Association. Unions were once an essential tool in the establishment of the middle class in the US, fighting for equity within our society. As we face a further threat to economic equity, we need to call upon the ideals of unionism and strengthen protections for society as a whole, including additional support for our marginalized populations.
Exposing the national anti-union agenda must not be our only goal in the wake of presidential candidate Chris Christie’s repugnant statements. Such a blatantly violent, misogynistic term must not be tolerated from a sitting governor, let alone a presidential candidate. It is necessary to call into question the term “punch” Christie uses when referring to the teachers’ union. This language is a specific attack on women who comprise 70-73 percent of education professionals and are a minority sector of our population. As a governor, Chris Christie and other elected officials are charged with the representation of their constituents. Those entrusted with governance are representatives of all people – men, women, and children – and all are called upon to condemn these statements.