17
May

Sometimes, the world can seem a strange place in which people fight over the bones of an issue that seems, well, weird to the rest of us. But, once legal passions are raised, the whole thing must be thrashed to death for years. These cases stop when honor is satisfied or the money runs out. There are times when we reach an answer without it having to go through another decade of appeals up to state and then the Supreme Court. Well, one such case has just bubbled back up into the public eye so we first have to remember a little history.

The unions representing the teaching profession have been moderately successful in securing a good range of benefits for their members. Hence, it’s fairly standard for there to be a reasonably comprehensive health plan for the teachers and their dependents. When the money was flowing into state coffers, some of the plans became quite generous with the range of treatments expanding. In Milwaukee, the local union has always prided itself on consulting the membership at every point in negotiations. In the late 1990’s, men began to add a new element to the standard problem of stress. Let’s face it, standing in front of a class of teens who resist the idea of learning has always been challenging but, as we moved from the more general open-ended approach to education favored in the 1960’s to something less demanding, stress levels rose. Children became increasingly non-responsive.

In every sense, 1998 was a revolutionary year because male teachers suddenly discovered there was a treatment for a problem that had been plaguing them for years. Erectile dysfunction was curable. They demanded their union negotiate the inclusion of little blue pills in the health plan. The school boards were not unhappy to comply. This seemed likely to be a relatively minor heading of expenditure. Except there was massive demand. As long as the state continued to pull in good tax revenues, this could be absorbed. But come 2005, the state boards decided enough was enough and they cut off the supply. Outraged teachers insisted the union sue. Arriving in 2011, the union has decided to drop the case.

Now let’s be clear. In principle, there’s nothing wrong with adding or subtracting different treatments from a health insurance plan. Everything is driven by costs and, when budgets come under pressure, it’s reasonable to cut the more expensive, less essential treatments. On the other side, when there’s every chance the employers will not be able to afford employing all the teachers, the priority should not be fighting over Viagra, but doing everything possible to protect jobs. When you consider the bill of legal costs built up over the last six years, that would have kept many teachers in work. It’s therefore a good decision to stop this case from going any further.

When the only people who really benefit from these cases are the attorneys, you should recognize the stupidity of continuing the case. Yet people are never completely rational when it comes down to winning and losing. This has been a shame. Viagra has been an enormous benefit to all men, including teachers. We don’t need court cases to remind us.

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