Teachers Unions

Discussion in 'General Education' started by hp123, Feb 7, 2010.

  1. hp123

    hp123 Comrade

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    Feb 7, 2010

    I'm wondering for those of you who work in districts with teachers unions fine them effective.

    What are the benefits...pitfalls? Thanks!
     
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  3. ~mrs.m~

    ~mrs.m~ Comrade

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    Feb 7, 2010

    I belong to a teachers' organization that provides legal representation if needed and insurance. They also keep track of what is happening in the legislature and lobby for teachers' interests. I live in Texas. I will never teach another year without those protections in place. However, it isn't a union like other states have.
     
  4. leighbball

    leighbball Virtuoso

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    Feb 7, 2010

    We have a strong union. Because of it, we have a great contract, legal representation when needed, and a group that lobbies for us. My local (district) is very strong, but our state union is by far the strongest union in the state. We've been able to accomplish great things.
     
  5. leighbball

    leighbball Virtuoso

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    And for the record, the "strongest in the state" comment has been made by some of my friends who work in other unions in the state.
     
  6. Bumble

    Bumble Groupie

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    My union is really strong and I'm thankful to be a part of it. We just made headline news. We blocked the district's push for merit pay and increased school day. We are the only union who was able to block this. Our union provides legal support, insurance, and makes sure working conditions are safe for students and teachers.
     
  7. janlee

    janlee Devotee

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    Feb 7, 2010

    I, too, belong to the most powerful union in my state which in turn belongs to one of the most powerful unions in the country. My local protects me, bargains for me, and stands behind me. I've seen our state union aid us with grievances we've filed against our administration. Though my union dues are quite high I have no regrets paying them. And when I retire, there are those who fight hard for the rights of retirees. I support the union all the way.
     
  8. Ron6103

    Ron6103 Habitué

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    Feb 7, 2010

    I hate my union. And it's not because they're not "strong", but because I feel our union works against the best interest of our students. For example, they filed a grievance this year over a change in working conditions. Why? Because we picked up an additional 15 minutes of working time for an "advisory" period. I found this time tremendously helpful for students, but the union ultimately won, and we won't have this time next year. It'll be several more years before contract negotiations come up, and this can be addressed again.

    Better still, I took on sponsorship of a club that students wanted to form, but there was no stipend for this club in our contract. I volunteered to do it anyway because the kids really wanted to meet. I was pestered by a multitude of union teachers to stop immediately, because "if its not in the contract, don't do it! then they'll try to make us all sponsor things without stipends!" etc. Now these kids have no club.

    I could go on with several more examples even. I'm sorry, but my union is counter-productive. They're fighting for the teachers (which is nice), but they also seem to think "the hell with everything else". I disagree with that. We're here for the students. Yes, the union should go to bat for major injustices and terminations, but the issues my union has taken on just drives me nuts.
     
  9. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    Feb 7, 2010

    Ours is technically an "association" and it's pretty good. It provides all the standard stuff like legal representation and insurance if we need it. While they're not perfect or all-powerful, they do tend to listen to what teachers want/need and fight for us on the big stuff. They've successfully kept the district from being able to lower our pay (but I'm honestly not sure how much longer that will last....).

    I will always belong to a union or similar group for as long as I teach, as long as one is available. I believe in the whole concept of unions and collective bargaining. I also appreciate having some protection against false accusations and whatnot.
     
  10. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Feb 7, 2010

    janlee and leighball are both in NJ, I believe, as am I. We have a strong state union...so strong that many believe our new governor is gunning for us-I'd like to think he has more important issues on his plate.
    I'm on the exec board of my local district association. Our association negotiates everyone's contract, provides legal representation, you feel that they have your back if you need it.
     
  11. Jem

    Jem Aficionado

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    Feb 7, 2010

    I had a union in MI, and it seemed to work well-I never needed to call on it, but I know it was strong. I did call on my union here in CA, and they wouldn't even visit our school site. I called three times because the conditions were so dangerous, but they said because the school was all first year teachers who probably wouldn't stay next year, they wouldn't waste their time. Two of us had to quit mid-year due to the safety issue, and several more left that summer. It made me so angry, because I paid a LOT in dues. That was my only negative experience, though, so I don't hold it against unions in general. My last two jobs did not have unions-private school and private family-and I felt the lack of due process. Both were able to let me go without notice or severance, and neither evaluated me or gave me any feedback. Unions certainly serve their place.
     
  12. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Even if you had a union in those jobs, you wouldn't have had much 'due process'. Non-tenured teachers pretty much can be let go 'at will'...in my district with only 30 days notice (so you would have at least had 30 days notice and pay). Since you worked less time in those jobs that would be required for tenure, you probably would have had no recourse even if there had been a union.
     
  13. Leatherette

    Leatherette Comrade

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    Feb 8, 2010

    I do not love my union, but I need them. It's icky. I had not previously joined a union, but in my current district, it is absolutely necessary due to terrible and vindictive leadership. I belong for protection only, and they only step in if there is an absolute crisis. But I feel that that is how the entire district operates, crisis to crisis, rather than growth.

    I am rather disillusioned at the moment.
     
  14. guest_teacher

    guest_teacher Rookie

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    Feb 9, 2010

    My district (in California) has an ineffective union. The district is unified, so there is the usual conflict between elementary and secondary teachers. Historically, the district has been a "hard to staff" district, so there is a conflict between the large but transitory ranks of junior teachers and the small but entrenched corps of senior teachers. The district is on the California Department of Education's list of the 97 worst-performing districts in the state, and the staff performance demands being made by the state and by its approved consultants represent an additional source of tension.

    Some failures:

    • The union said nothing when the school board voted to pull out of a state-funded high school class size reduction program (Morgan-Hart). The decision was financially unecessary, and long preceded the economic crisis.
    • The (elementary-biased) union allowed the district to increase high school contact hours and teaching loads and reduce preparation time, with no adjustment in compensation. (I agree with the other poster who says that such changes are acceptable if they benefit students, but I do think that additional compensation is warranted. And at some point, time demands have to be controlled so that teachers can maintain a work-life balance.)
    • Instead of staying in the loop and negotiating from the start, the union had to react when the district imposed a new set of personnel policies last fall.
    • The union, like most teachers' unions, favors a pay progression that penalizes new teachers. Research has shown that the benefits of experience level off after about five years, but my district maintains, with union concurrence, a ladder that extends beyond 20 years! Starting salaries are among the lowest in the region, and new teachers normally exit to neighboring districts after a year or two.
    • The union has not been monitoring the district's handling of state sanctions. State laws regarding open meetings, and local contract provisions regarding teacher evaluation procedures, are not being followed. District leadership is turning state sanctions into an opportunity of the worst kind.
    • The union leader has an off-putting, confrontational manner, which hampers public relations efforts.

    Some benefits:
    • California's state disability insurance plan does not normally cover teachers, and my district has not opted for voluntary participation, let alone contracted with a private disability insurance company. Joining the union is the only way for teachers in my district to get disability insurance without a medical review.
    • The union provides professional liability insurance and limited legal support. Professional liability insurance can be obtained from some associations, but union legal representation is especially valuable in situations such as layoff hearings.
    • Though the collective bargaining agreement is far from perfect, it does represent decades' worth of negotiating effort. It is a sort of institutional memory, and is worth supporting. It is far better than the at-will arrangements in non-union settings, like most charter schools.

    Those who have read my other posts know that I am strong believer in employment protections for teachers. The nature of our work puts us at great risk. State personnel laws and local collective bargaining agreements are important responses. I do wish that the union for my district would get back to the basics: pay, working hours, class size, and teacher evaluation. With a more polished leader, the union could also weigh in on debates about school funding, and begin pushing for work conditions that would make it possible for teachers to be more effective.

    Side note: One thing that many California teachers don't know is that they can receive the protections of the collective bargaining agreement, and basic union services such as grievance handling, in return for reduced fees. If a person decides not to join the union, the union will impose a "fair share" fee, which is typically the same as full dues. In fact, the portion that is not spent on basic services such as negotiations and grievance handling can be refunded. The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation has information for teachers who want to contribute only to the "costs of representation". I am stopping short of advocating this, but I do think that teachers should understand the issue.
     
  15. Rox

    Rox Cohort

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    Feb 9, 2010

    The con is that the teacher next door that misses 4 months of work, teaches crap, and yells at all the students can't be fired.
     
  16. Jem

    Jem Aficionado

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    I disagree. With a union, if you do not get a six month evaluation, you have a rep who can help you get it. If you DO get an evaluation, and it's glowing, and then 2 months later your supervisor wants to re-nig, you have support. A union should be there for all it's members, tenured or not. Everyone pays the same dues and has the same contract. So I do believe in both cases, a union would have been helpful.
     
  17. smalltowngal

    smalltowngal Multitudinous

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    Feb 9, 2010

    No union here in TX but we do have organizations that help with legal issues and will be present at meetings if requested.
     
  18. janlee

    janlee Devotee

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    Feb 9, 2010

    I teach in NY (not the city) and know how strong the NJEA is. Many of my friends teach in NJ schools and I've heard their rumblings about the new governor's ideas.
     

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