This week, Five Boroughs Productions released a new documentary, The Rubber Room, to online audiences on iTunes and Amazon. It is a story of wasted tax dollars, ignored rights, and government secrecy. Part of it reminds me of another movie, The Matrix, where human bodies are kept alive simply as a power source.
New York City has a vast public school system immersed in political correctness and enmeshed in union power. This means it is easy to complain even against a good teacher. In fact, The Rubber Room suggests that students use complaints against teachers they simply dislike. This also means it is hard to fire a truly bad teacher.
What to do? The politicians found a way out - one that does not upset the union or even force the bureaucracy to make decisions. The “rubber room” is actually a series of offices maintained by the school system where teachers are “reassigned” to sit at a desk all day … and do nothing.
Trailer: The Rubber Room
For the bureaucracy, it was a perfect solution since it protected the powerful while only hurting taxpayers and workers. The taxpayers had no idea this was happening. The teachers should be grateful to still collect a paycheck.
For the union, it was also a grand bargain. No one forced them to spend money actually representing teachers in disputes. And as long as they keep teachers on the payroll - still plugged into “The Matrix” - the union still gets its power in money and numbers.
The Rubber Room is just one story of government waste and abuse, but it pulls back the veil on the perverse incentives at play in goverment bureaucracies' relationship with monopoly unions. Maybe this is what President Franklin Delano Roosevelt had in mind when he warned against the very idea of public-sector unions.