Mixed Message Or Role Reversal?

I know everyone is in it for the kids, it’s all about the kids, and all that, but seriously can these statements be squared?  They’re indicative of some pretty intense conversations within the teachers’ unions about how to respond (publicly and privately) to the current environment as well as some evolution in the NEA:  

AFT President Randi Weingarten at the recent AFT meeting:

 “I hope you’re as outraged as I am when our critics say that unions are part of the problem, not the solution; that we are only in it for ourselves; that we represent adults against kids; and that we are a selfish special interest set against the public interest,”

Outgoing NEA General Counsel Bob Chanin at the recent NEA meeting:

“NEA and affiliates must never lose sight of the fact that they are unions, and unions first and foremost represent their members,”

10 Replies to “Mixed Message Or Role Reversal?”

  1. Of course they can be squared. Why do you counter-pose teachers’ interests with those of students? In L.A. we also have a parents’ union. Do you think parent interests run counter to those of their children? Of course a union represents the interests of its members. Is that a reason to be anti-union? Maybe if you had a real job you would get it.

  2. I’ve been a union teacher for 28 years. At no time has NEA, IEA, or my local bargaining unit ever presented a policy, opinion, or collective bargaining language that in any way prevented myself or my colleagues from providing outstanding educational services for our students. On the local level, we did have to advocate for teahers to have adequate planning time, lunch, sick leave, and of course, competitive salary and benefits that would attract and retain high-caliber teachers. I have appreciated my union’s efforts to place limits on the length of my work day (7.5 hours), the number of times I can be required to cover another teacher’s classroom in his/her absence, and additional involuntary duty assignments that would stretch my time too thinly to continue to do the hours of off-the-clock preparation, planning, and paperwork that all teachers have come to expect as part of their lives.

    In other words, the efforts of my union have enhanced my ability to do my job as a professional; the only requirements that have had a negative impact on my service to students have come from school or district administrators, who have been angry when the union has protected me (and by extension, my students) from these abuses.

    Finally, I’m grateful to my union for lobbying for tenure rights for teachers. Having experienced life as an at-will employee, the idea that I could be fired on a whim for disagreeing with a supervisor, who may or may not have the best interests of my students at heart, is a little shocking.

    Professionalization of teaching is not about paying us more, and certainly not about eliminating the labor organizations that represent and protect us. It is all about empowering us as decision-makers and engaging us in school reform efforts at the grass-roots level.

    Maybe teachers’ unions present negatively on the topic of school reform because their membership, who know more about how schools should perform, are acted upon in these reform efforts by administrators and legislators with alternative agendas.

    Stop blaming the teachers!

  3. They cannot be squared if the union is a good union.

    A professional organization maybe able to square these feelings but a labor union should be interested in the members and only the members. The teamster are not interested in the onions their drivers carry they are interested in the drivers only.

    Why are hard to find teachers not paid more? Unions requires a one size fits all mentality.

  4. Georgeann Davis stated stop blaming teachers but the teachers continue to chose to become a labor organization and not a professional organization.

    Teachers elect their reps and get what they want. I want to be treated like a professional not labor. I can’t because the system tells me any reward is purely non-monetary. I teach AP Biology General Chem and could teach AP Chemistry. My union says I am the same as a PE coach who takes home no work at all. I love my PE coach friends (some are old science teachers that wanted out of lab prep and lab grading) but should we be equal in compensation? This is the problem with a union approach. Truck drivers cannot get paid for better driving but even they can get increased pay for hazMat certifications. The NEA is not interested in what is best for education. They, by design are interested in what is best for educators.

  5. Doug:

    You might not realize this, but when the unions were formed, they wanted to be recognized as professional associations that would be allowed to make decisions about curriculum, instruction, quality of faculty and so forth (similar to what college professors have). However, the state legislators would not permit this and only allowed teachers to form labor unions that would deal with salary, employment rights and benefits. During my 42 years as a teacher I felt the way you do and wanted to belong to a professional organization that would help me excercise my rights as a career teacher. However, the fault does not lie with the unions because they can only do what the law allows them to do. In my opinion the charter movement offers teachers the opportunity to start their own schools and expand the role of the teachers’ unions. I hope I live to see teachers take control of their profession.

  6. As a teacher, I fully support the teachers union and the work that they do on behalf of all teachers.

  7. Linda I agree with you. The unions cannot pretend to be for students other than the idea that happy teachers make for better learning. The union’s job is to support the worker period. if it isn’t why have a union?

    I agree about charter schools but it seems so sad to think that the system and philosophy that made our educational history so great is now threatened by the very practitioners that have a dream of educating children. We know which teachers are just putting in time because they have no other options left. What will the unions do when their employees all leave? By some estimates over a million teachers will retire in the next five years. The structure in place right now burns out the new teachers so fast that they leave the profession.

    Maybe it will be like California’s budget, the only time leaders stop spending is when they have no money and have borrowed beyond their limits.

    I am not as anti union as I sound but I think anytime we seek to make all people equal in terms of compensation we can expect the average work ethic to be lower.

  8. Teacher unions are there to protect the teacher. I am a union representative for my building. Although, the pricipal of a union is something that I have never necessarily agreed with, I see the need. If everyone would/could act in a professional and fair manner (teachers and administrators) then there would be no need for this. I find that most issues are petty and brought up because of a refusal to compromise. Unfortunatly, because of human nature, teachers unions are a necessity. I am grateful for everything that our union does.

    Doug, have you heard of Project Open Door? (I believe that is what it is called). It is a hot topic because it provides AP teachers and students with monetary compensation for earning A’s (obviously, not looked favorably upon by the unions).

  9. I too H. M is a representative of the Teachers Union in The Bahamas and I know one of their mission is to look after the interest of the teachers. If teachers do not act and behave in a professional manner, there will always be problems.

  10. Hi,

    I want to thank you for this forum, when I come here, I’m amazed.
    I read the messages regularly and I now decided to join.


    It’s me aka the big ass girl. Enjoy life as long as your young.

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