New teachers-- are you joining your union?

Discussion in 'General Education' started by eddesk, Jan 27, 2016.

  1. eddesk

    eddesk New Member

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    Jan 27, 2016

    Hi all!

    Full disclosure, I work for nprEd.

    We're working on a piece about unions and new teachers. Specifically, we're thinking about the next generation of union members-- what new teachers think about unions, why they are/aren't joining, and what changes they'd like to see (or not!)

    Feel free to send us a private message, or to post your thoughts here. We'd really love to hear from you.
     
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  3. gr3teacher

    gr3teacher Phenom

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    Jan 27, 2016

    Not a new teacher (this is my seventh year), but as a teacher in a non-union state with a reasonably strong association, I always strongly encourage any new teacher to join the association, and most of them do. Honestly, the association providing lawyers in the event of a lawsuit should be more than enough to make any new teacher join, even if our association is (by state design) pretty ineffectual against district mistreatment of teachers.

    For what it's worth though, I honestly think many of the benefits of unions are somewhat overblown (and the "abuses" of them by opponents certainly are). As one example, I have the same sort of job security that teachers do in union states, only it's not called tenure... and when I explain to non-teachers what protections I have, the reaction is unanimously "That's what all teachers should have, they should have that, not tenure!"
     
  4. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Fourth year here, but at first I was wary of joining the Union. Then while I was interning I was falsely accused by a student of pushing him. I realized the need for Unions and the due process protections they offer us. Joining the union in our district is almost mandatory (it's not, but if you don't join, you still have to pay fees to a charity of some type). However while I have been here, our union has successfully negotiated better health benefits for us, a pay raise, and works to keep the for-profit charters (who were cutting art and science out of their curriculum for maximum profit) out.

    I think the people who are against unions don't really understand the benefits they do get from their unions, and most on here who come from a right-to-work state usually complain about how their pay is dismally low, and they have no way of bettering their working conditions. I was apprehensive to join the union at first just because of all the propaganda against unions out there these days that was probably funded by those who just want to monetize education.

    It just goes to show how powerful money can be in swaying public opinion.
     
  5. eddesk

    eddesk New Member

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    Jan 27, 2016

    Hi!

    I'd really love to talk to you more about this, if you're interested. Right now, my account is too new to send private messages. Would you mind messaging me?
     
  6. Bowman

    Bowman Guest

    Jan 27, 2016

    Hello,
    This is my first post here. I am not yet a teacher, but am in my student teaching placement at a charter school. The school I am teaching in is not union, none of the teachers here are in the union, even though this is a union state. When I do get my credential and start teaching, I will definitely join the union. Although I have seen the union abuses portrayed in Waiting for Superman and the like, I am realizing that in a position like teaching, where there is so much interaction between so many different people all with different agendas, having a union backing up my good faith actions will protect me against the capricious actions of a possibly poor administration, and give me some level of piece of mind as to the stability of my position at the school.
     
  7. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    I don't think we're permitted to private message you either until you reach the minimum limit. :confused:
     
  8. gr3teacher

    gr3teacher Phenom

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    We don't have the option of sending you a private message. Sorry.
     
  9. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Jan 27, 2016

    Interesting topic, eddesk. Can you tell us a little more about the project?
     
  10. lucybelle

    lucybelle Connoisseur

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    I'm in my sixth year teaching and in a non-union state. In the past I have paid the $$$ to get legal/liability insurance. This year I sort of forgot to do it and have kept putting it off. I thought about joining my local association, but it's nearly $600/year which seems absurd to me, and is frankly out of my budget range. The legal insurance I normally buy is about $120/year. I'm not sure how much union dues are but I just don't have the extra money to be spending $600/year just in case I get sued by a student.
     
  11. bella84

    bella84 Aficionado

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    I'm in my sixth year of teaching... I've worked in three schools: one urban charter with no union, one suburban public with an association acting as a union, one urban public with a full-blown union. Out of the three, I most preferred the association acting as a union. As gr3teacher said, they offer most of the same protections and benefits as a regular union does anyway. There, I wasn't required to pay any "fair-share" fees if I didn't join, but I wanted to be a member and joined. I even served as a building rep one year.

    I am currently working at the large urban public district, and I am a member of the union. I am not a fan my union though, and I disagree with a LOT of what they do. If I didn't join, not only would they take my money anyway as "fair-share" fees, but I would also be hassled by colleagues, particularly the building union rep, to join. It's easier to just pay slightly more, be a member, and get them to leave me alone. I refuse to join in on all of their rallys and recite their rhetoric though.

    I'm torn on unions overall... I believe that there is some truth to my generation not appreciating unions because we didn't experience how bad it used to be long ago, before they existed, but I also know that I don't like supporting - financially or otherwise - an organization that uses tactics and slogans that I disagree with, even if we are really wanting the same thing in the end (what is best for us as employees and for students). Ideally, schools boards and administrators would treat teachers with professional respect, and teachers would do their jobs well. Then we wouldn't need unions. Honestly, that's very close to how the suburban school district where I worked was, and it was probably the best thing about working there. Some days, I wish I hadn't left for that reason alone.
     
  12. SpecialPreskoo

    SpecialPreskoo Moderator

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    Jan 28, 2016

    YES, JOIN... join something that will cover your butt in case you need it. Here in Alabama there are a few organizations... AEA, AFT, and LMNOPQ (not really one but I can't think of the acronym for the others). AEA has more "Cover your butt" to offer than AFT, but a lot of people say AEA has an agenda because they are into the government too much. Uh, yeah, they fight for the teachers' rights when the dorks in office try to screw us over on a regular basis.

    But yeah, join something!! Don't be hung out to dry when that student or parent accuses you of something that you didn't do and you have no one on your side. The school sure won't be. They have their own butts to cover.
     
  13. otterpop

    otterpop Phenom

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    Jan 28, 2016

    I see no downside to joining a union. At my current school, we have no union, however. As a new teacher two years ago, I joined a union. It provided professional protection and I liked the professional development opportunities (teaching magazines and workshops).
     
  14. scholarteacher

    scholarteacher Connoisseur

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    We can't have teacher unions in our state, but I joined the Classroom Teachers Association. I've heard that if a kid tries to hit you and you put your arms up to block the hit, the teacher can be charged. So I do it for legal protection. I've never been a fan of unions, but our state pays so low and gets so few raises (last in the nation), I'm beginning to wish we had a union.
     
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  15. Rockguykev

    Rockguykev Connoisseur

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    Paying $110/mo to support an agenda one doesn't support just on the off-chance they might help you if you maybe, possibly get into a situation that they scared you into thinking was likely seems like a ton of downside to me.
     
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  16. otterpop

    otterpop Phenom

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    I did contact my union about a bully principal, but they could do nothing except say, "Wow, that's horrible, we've gotten other complaints about her too but there's nothing you can do." So, not the most useful, I agree. But I guess I viewed it as professional insurance. Not something you'll be glad you have until you actually need it. My principal at the time was totally crazy cakes and probably would have pursued nonrenewal for no good reason if I hadn't quit midyear... so it was good to know I had someone on my side, sort of.
     
  17. AmyMyNamey

    AmyMyNamey Comrade

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    Jan 30, 2016

    After more than a decade teaching, I have to wonder why I'm in a union. They can't or won't fight for us. Our pay has been frozen since 2011. Administrators can do anything they want to any teacher at any time—they can force you to walk their dog and drive their kids to school, and there is nothing anyone can do. You don't know if you'll have a job from one day to the next.

    Join a union? Hell, tell me why anyone would even teach at all?
     
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  18. AmyMyNamey

    AmyMyNamey Comrade

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    Jan 30, 2016

    Let me say

    The one thing unions are doing most poorly is providing a counter to the propaganda and falsehoods sold to the American public by legislators beholden to test-makers, for-profit educators, and anti-tax zealots. Negative public perception of education lies at the very heart of most difficulties we face today. These perceptions have emboldened the increasingly hostile legislative actions taken against educators over the past two or three decades. Our unions have remained largely quiet for years—at least as long as I've been teaching. It's as if they are afraid to rock a sinking boat. The 2010 elections were the death knell of public education. Unions have done little but roll over and play dead ever since.

    Teaching never has paid well. The best you could hope for was to be comfortable—get a raise to offset inflation each year. Now that's gone. Tell me, how long can you afford to teach when your effective pay drops at over 3% per year? You won't see a raise of any kind. If anything, pay shrinks as employee benefit contributions and deductibles balloon. The "merit pay" legislators like to tout might be an extra $10 after taxes—assuming an administrator goes out on a limb and evaluates you as outstanding in the field.

    What are unions doing about this? Nothing. Not as far as I can tell.

    Combine those increasingly hostile working conditions with decreasing pay and benefits over the course of decades. This is why young people aren't entering the field as before.

    Politicians will succeed in replacing public education with a for-profit system lighter on the tax base. But we will no longer have highly trained and committed professionals teaching in these new systems. Typically, our heirs will be taught by transients just passing through while looking for better opportunities. There will be some true-believers, as in the priesthood, who will fight the good fight. However, by and large, the entire system will collapse from the lack of adequate funding. The services provided will erode to the point of sad irrelevancy. In two or three decades, only the wealthiest of Americans will have access to a quality education.

    Join a union at nearly $1000 per year, when you're already in one of the lowest paid professions around, with pay that will only continue to drop? For what? Professional insurance remains a selling point for now. But a Ponzi scheme is a better investment. With a Ponzi scheme, you'd only lose the money you put in. With a teacher's union, you're losing everything you have, a little at a time, for the rest of your life.

    I understand how dark that all sounds. Because it is dark. Instead of soliciting stories online, better for everyone to volunteer in an inner city school system for a month, then write about what you see. Sinclair's "The Jungle" for our modern times. Guaranteed to be eye-opening. But is that even what people want? Do the big Truths matter any more, or are we just mindless cattle goaded about by sound bites and mindless theater?

    Cattle headed for slaughter gets my vote.
     
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2016
  19. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Perhaps some unions are better than others. I do agree that their political agenda may be a little aggressive at times but I've been in favor of all of their policy decisions so far. If I am not, it's likely other teachers won't be as well and the union is there to serve us so we can disagree. Actually, the union is us. Any motion the union takes is voted upon by the teachers within the union. If it doesn't pass, it doesn't happen.

    I feel our union has done a great job in working on behalf of us.
     
  20. MissMae

    MissMae Rookie

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    I'm in my second year, and I didn't even know my school had an association until a college professor pointed it out. I joined and within a year they managed to get us a signing bonus and extra days of leave.

    I like that they have lawyers and policies in place to protect me. I will probably always be a member.
     
  21. Rockguykev

    Rockguykev Connoisseur

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    That simply isn't true. I guarantee your local doesn't ask you ahead of time which candidates it will endorse for local elections. It can't imagine they ask you each time before they sends out political mailers. If they do, then you're right, you have a good local. I really can't imagine it is true.

    Even if it were, the state union, which takes roughly 1/3rd of your dues in California and which you MUST join if you join your local, doesn't ask about ANYTHING it does. I've paid in over $10,000 in my time of teaching and haven't once been asked about a single political position. Yes, I've voted on contracts and bargaining options but none of the other activities at the local, state or federal level.
     
  22. dgpiaffeteach

    dgpiaffeteach Aficionado

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    Our union really does watch out for us. I live in a pretty strong union state. Our last negotiations went extremely well. I would encourage all of our new teachers to join and I'm glad I did.
     
  23. otterpop

    otterpop Phenom

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    Wow, that's a lot of money!
     
  24. bella84

    bella84 Aficionado

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    The association that acted as a union at my last school district actually did ask for feedback on who to endorse for local school board elections. Teachers were told to discuss it with building reps, and then building reps voted at the district-wide meeting.
     
  25. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Some good points. Actually though, in our union, we have the option of requesting that our dues do NOT go to political action and endorsements.
     
  26. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Glendale Teachers Association has a breakdown at http://glendaleteachers.org/?page_id=575: of about $1041 per year, $644 goes to CTA, $185 to NEA, and the rest to the local organization. It's deducted from one's paycheck on a tenthly basis, $104.10 per paycheck; over 12 months, that would be $86.35 per month. By way of comparison, machinists at Boeing pay $72.10 per month, and it's probably comparably distributed to the national machinists' union, the state organization, and the local. In other unionized fields, monthly dues are typically calculated at 2.5 times the member's hourly rate. Union dues typically cover salaries plus facilities plus travel expenses and the like for officials (and office staff) at the national, state, and local levels, and probably a stipend for the shop steward or building representative; there may be ongoing contributions to a strike fund on which members can draw to help cover expenses should they need to go out on strike; and the dues will also cover any services or training or whatever that is provided by the union itself. (The Oregon teachers' association used to provide free teacher-test preparation at several locations around the state.)
     
  27. Missy

    Missy Aficionado

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    My blood is boiling. In my state, association officers and reps work so hard to represent our members and work for the good of our students (class size limits, plan time so teachers can actually have time to prepare to teach, etc). My members are very appreciative, but also understand reality, and that occasionally there will be economic conditions such that we take a pay freeze for a year or two. Most state associations have guidelines the locals have to follow on some matters, so if you think your association is not doing the job, check it out and get involved. Associations are great if you are in trouble, but they do so much more for their members and their district. Yes, there are dues, but think about what your job could be like without the benefits offered by your association.
     
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  28. creativemonster

    creativemonster Comrade

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    I'm very concerned about how the current case in the supreme court will affect unions. There seems to be a lot of people who think life would be better without unions and I wish they would look at history to see all we take for granted because of what the unions before us fought for.

    Having said that - this could turn into the type of political discussion that is not allowed here, so I will refrain. Also, not only is every district different - every school has its own unique issues and personalities... but overall, I am glad - super glad - that I have a union protecting me should I ever need it.

    And yes, there is paperwork involved, but in my union, we can get back the whopping twenty bucks a year that goes toward politics. I do this and then donate it where I choose. Although I'm thinking of returning it to the union because of other issues.
     
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  29. Missy

    Missy Aficionado

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    Also not trying to get political, but my state association held an emergency Presidents' meeting yesterday to discuss how to handle potential issues if the Friedrichs case goes badly.
     
  30. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    Here in Ontario, all teachers in publicly funded education must be a member of the federation (union). The relationship between the provincial government (which funds education) and the teachers has been ugly (at best) for a long time. Without our strong federations fighting on our behalf, I shudder to think where we'd be. I consider membership like an insurance policy. I may not need it often, but when I do, I'm glad they are there.
     
  31. monsieurteacher

    monsieurteacher Aficionado

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    I can certainly say that my union DOES go to the members over things like these. They do not campaign or support one candidate over another anyway, though they will be politically active in the sense that they encourage us to ask candidates specific questions so we can decide on our own. My union is 100% the members.
     

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