Union Purpose

I’ve heard a number of union critics say that they don’t like the teachers’ unions because they aren’t doing what is best for kids, and when I hear this critique I sometimes just think to myself, “duh.” In my opinion, the union is for the teachers.

Granted, happy teachers often create happy students, but the union should be focused on the teachers’ contracts, pay, benefits, and working conditions. I do believe these focuses translate into better conditions for students and ultimately better learning, but the unions’ work should directly be for the benefit of the instructors.

Am I off base?


6 thoughts on “Union Purpose

  1. The Science Goddess

    I agree that “the union should be focused on the teachers’ contracts, pay, benefits, and working conditions.” But as you point out in an earlier post from the recent union meeting, this is not what the union does (e.g. sticks its nose into being thoughtful about marriage). If The Union would stick to contract issues, far fewer people would take issue with it or see it as being removed from what’s best for kids. The Union needs to stay in its sandbox. As I’ve traveled the state this year, one thing I’ve discovered is an increasing backlash against WEA. Teachers and parents are tired of a Union that has grown too big for its britches.

    1. drpezz Post author

      In this, I agree with you. I was very troubled by that discussion. Thankfully, it was only a resolution (a belief statement) and not an item for action. Still, it hurts the union’s reputation. Our leadership will spend zero time on that specific resolution, especially since it has no standing to do so.

  2. NYC Educator

    I don’t think you’re off base at all. However, I don’t buy this dichotomy of adults vs. children either. I agree that happy teachers help make happy kids, but I can’t help but notice that kids grow up to become adults–this seems to escape the attention of those who pit us against kids. I happen to have a kid who speaks of becoming a teacher. I think she’d make a good teacher, and I hope it’s still a good job by the time she gets around to it.

  3. Tamara Eden

    I feel like this post was triggered by my post about. The post I did with the wordle of the UTLA homepage.

    Anyway, I don’t think you’re off base either. Of course Teacher Unions are for teachers. My issue though is that where I’ve worked, the union reps insist on an us vs. them mentality in regards to teachers and administrators. If we think kids don’t pick up on this, we would be badly mistaken. I can strongly say that where I teach now we have some great Admin. I find them accessible, easy to talk to and be candid with, and they actually CARE about the kids. They know our kids stories, their names, etc. YET…the union rep STILL insists that they are the bad guys and the union is the good.

    Is it not ok for a school to have strong union and not have issues with the admin? It’s like some LOOK for a problem even when there is none.

  4. dkzody

    I love our union. We have good pay and good benefits because they went to battle for us. My dues are worth every penny for what these guys have done.

    a 20-year teacher in the same district, at the same school

  5. drpezz Post author

    I can’t say Tamara’s post is the sole source of my post, as I have had this debate quite a bit lately, but it did finally spur me to write (a big “thank you” to you).

    Sometimes I think the “us vs. them” mentality is a generational difference. Most of what the previous leaders fought for are what we have now; we have fewer of the old fights with the districts in which we work and the administrations with whom we work (at least in my state). Disagreements will inevitably arise, but the substance seems to have changed.

    I also think many administrators look at numbers whereas many teachers look at programs. This difference in perspective also hurts relations at times, and I can personally attest to this one. Too often my dealings with administrators center on numbers rather than kids, teachers, or programs.

    However, I do think that the union in my state is correct to resist any unfunded mandates or promises no matter how noble (or seemingly noble) they may be. Legislators in my state want to change the funding formula, how teachers are paid, the length of the school day, and more but have no plan for paying for the changes. Then, these same legislators get upset when the union opposes the proposals because we have been promised too many things too often with too little follow through. This certainly appears obstructionist, but I don’t blame my union. I would be against it as well, and not for just the monetary reasons, but that’s probably a whole other post for another day. 🙂


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