Teachers unions, along with other public employee unions, have faced unprecedented attacks over the last 12 months. The attacks continue with a measure on the November ballot which will curb the voice of unions (but not corporations). Why are unions important? Why are they important in education?
First up, what is ”The Stop Special Interest Money Now Act” (hint: it doesn’t stop corporate special interests) on the November ballot? Read more here, Ron Lind: Special interest ballot measure really is just anti-union – San Jose Mercury News, and watch this video:
Why teachers unions? This piece, Anti-Union and Anti-Women | LFA: Join The Conversation – Public School Insights discusses how gender equity and discrimination factored into both the history of teachers unions, and the current battles to preserve these hard-won rights. Here is a snippet:
It’s relevant here to note the history of teachers unions in America. They arose in large part to address systemic discrimination against female teachers, who prior to the establishment of unions could be dismissed for virtually any arbitrary reason, including dating, getting married or pregnant, and traveling outside of town boundaries without permission. Further, female and black teachers often made less than white male teachers for doing the same work. Teachers unions addressed these issues, and ensure that female and minority teachers are paid the same and have the same rights as white male teachers. The fact, then, that teachers unions in Wisconsin—and generally in the country—are specifically targeted is a disconcerting development relative to women’s (and minority) rights.
Unions stand up not just for our members, but for what is right. From Deborah Meier, Buyer Beware – Bridging Differences – Education Week:
But there is also some renewed optimism that we might, just might, see a resurgence of energy for saving democracy. It’s barely hanging in there. The advantages fall so heavily in favor of the 1 percent (or maybe the 1-5 percent) that it’s hard to see how we can restore a healthy balance. In the absence of unions there is no counterweight—not in terms of money, but in terms of willing volunteers to man/woman opposition parties, causes, etc. Democracy rests on that. [emphasis added]
But what do individual members get for their dues? Doug Noon, a teacher in Alaska (and site rep) lays out some of the reasons in this post. He gained a living wage moving from teaching at a private school, to a unionized job in a public one. He gained stability that protected him through a RIF (layoff) process. Finally he came to appreciate the protection of the union in his capacity as a site rep where he had to defend teachers, as he describes here:
I found out that a contract is only as good as the people who are willing to defend it. Principals are not infallible or unconditionally benevolent. Grudges are held and power is abused.
Unions are not the problem, but offer a way for us to negotiate solutions with administrators in a way that is fair, honest, and equitable.
For further reading:
This is What #EDUSolidarity Looks Like – The Full List | Outside the Cave
EduSolidarity was a gathering of posts by edu-bloggers in support of teachers unions. This post is a listing of posts submitted, and provides some interesting first-person accounts.
Local teacher and Edublogger, Larry Ferlazzo, has The Best Resources For Learning Why Teachers Unions Are Important | Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…