I was poking around the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation recently. Tidbits of interest included a way (pending member support) to deauthorize the portion of the contract which forces dues collection. The union doesn't lose the ability to be the negotiator in collective bargaining, but it does have a bit more accountability to potential members. There's even a "Concerned Educators Against Forced Unionism" group, a blog, and other resources available.
Teacher in a Strange Land shared a link to an interesting report by the Education Sector about Leading the Local: Teachers Union Presidents Speak on Change, Challenges. As TiaSL points out, one of the most interesting aspects is the "learning from the research was that most of the presidents felt they were leading “'parallel unions:' an old-guard contingent unwilling to give up the adversarial politics that got them improved salaries, benefits and entitlements, and a newer group of teachers who are more interested in guaranteed mentoring, professional learning, teamwork and genuine opportunities for leadership.
" That is certainly the case here, with the union leadership only interested in the "old-guard contingent." If the newer group of teachers had the ability to withhold dues until their interests were adequately represented, I wonder what would happen?
One of my primary objections to the union as it exists today is simply that if teachers are professionals, we should act in a professional manner. The "old guard" is purely representing a blue-collar mentality of labor-management relations. It's time that we as teachers expected more from "our" representation and thought more about how we view ourselves. As long as our appearance as "just teachers" is facilitated by union leadership, we can never build the kind of collaborative community we need to help every student reach his or her potential.