13 October 2007

Look for the Union Label

Are you living in a state with forced unionism for teachers? (There's a map here, if you're not sure...or are thinking about moving.) Dues vary by district and state. Here, they're close to $870 per year. As a "fees payer," I do get a bit of a rebate once a year.

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.


ms-teacher said...

I believe that unions are necessary. When I talk to teachers that complain about the status quo, but refuse to get involved to change it, I'll admit that I get a little bit miffed.

An example that I could use is when the State took over my district a few years ago. The year the state came in was also the end of our contract. Many teachers complained bitterly about some of the proposed changes to our contract, but very few were willing to come to board meetings. We ended up losing full coverage for our benefits and more than a few teachers complained that it was the "unions fault."

Well, I'm sorry, but unless you are a fee payer, you are the union. With all of that being said, there are things that I think that the NEA and the CTA have no business being involved in.

The Science Goddess said...

I am a fees payer. Although I am sure that there are some good and healthy unions out and about, that is certainly not the case here. It is an embarrassment to most teachers I know that they have to have this sort of "representation." I have watched a few try to get involved, only to be attacked by the old guard for trying to foster any sense of positive relationship with admin or keep kids in mind as decisions are made. Pretty sad.