TEACHERS’ UNIONS AND COLLECTIVE BARGAINING

RESOLUTION IN SUPPORT OF ….(with supporting myths, facts and references)

POSITION STATEMENT:

Unions have historically been the main form of organization as workers struggled for economic and social advancement. Their experience as an arena of internal and external struggle for racial and social equality plays an important part in achieving the goal of every child having access to tools for becoming an empowered member of a democratic society. Unions, originally built on the principle of solidarity, provide a major vehicle for combating poverty- a major indicator of educational outcomes – through the use of unions as workers’ representative voice to demand their rights, improve their conditions, and express their views.

Decent work is central in the economic and social policies of governments and international organizations to bridge the missing link between growth, joblessness and poverty. Teachers’ unions are also essential in retaining teaching as a Profession and in assuring the public that sound education principle and policy are best provided by qualified education professionals. SOS resolves to support and increase the ranks of teachers’ unions and the right to bargain collectively with the goal of placing the Profession of Teaching at the forefront of policymaking and to retain an equitable and fully funded public education system that serves all children.

MYTHS

  • Teacher unions are to blame for or contribute to the “crisis” in public education.
  • Unions should only be about economic issues, i.e. Salaries and benefits.
  • Unions should only be about political and social justice issues.
  • Teacher unions put the interests of teachers ahead of the interests of children.
  • Unions should limit their demands for salaries, benefits and working conditions to conform to budget parameters set by management.
  • Equitable salaries, benefits and improved working conditions have no correlation with improved learning outcomes.
  • Teachers’ unions put the interests of teachers ahead of the interests of children.
  • Disagreements with union officials preclude uniting with unions or is a reason to attack unions.
  • Teachers cannot/should not oppose policy positions determined by union management.
  • Teachers do not have a voice in union policy.
  • Charter school teachers are “empowered” by not having a union.
  • Schools, districts or states with no unions outperform those that have unions.
  • Unions protect bad teachers.

FACTS

  • The two main teachers’ unions, the NEA and the AFT, are the main representatives and collective voice for more than five million teachers. Today, these two unions and other teacher unions around the country continue to play a vital role in protecting the rights of teachers, especially in the current climate of economic austerity and corporate school reform.
  • Unions are representative democratic organizations whose members drive the agenda.
  • Anything that affects learning outcomes for children, such as policy, is appropriate issues for teacher unions to address.
  • The 21st Century concept of professionalism corresponds with “economic value”; therefore, teacher unions must take an active role in defining and raising the “value” of teachers through collective bargaining for equitable salaries, benefits and quality working conditions.
  • Equitable salaries, benefits and working conditions should drive increased expectations, long-term job commitment and stability, continuous professional development and improved performance by virtue of experience, all of which should correlate with improved learning outcomes.
  • It is the responsibility of teachers to be active members and a strong voice in order to build a cohesive representative organization. Unions support a democratic approach to our public education system and through growth and solidarity can achieve the goals of teachers and public education.
  • Public sector workers, including teachers, now represent the backbone of what remains of battered and diminished American labor unions. They are bearing the brunt of attacks on job security and living standards of the working class and middle class. Even in the midst of so-called “economic recovery,” teachers and public sector workers are still facing massive layoffs and firings carried out in the name of school reform. Charter school teachers not represented by unions and with no rights to collectively bargain are subject to the arbitrary exercise of power by administrators.
  • Based on studies correlating NAEP scores to states that are covered by union contracts, states in which there are no teachers covered under binding agreements score lower than the states that have them. These data make it very clear that states without binding teacher contracts are not doing better, and the majority are actually among the lowest performers in the nation.
  • The real effect of teachers union contractsl By Matthew Di Carlo. Valerie Strauss. The Answer Sheet. October 25, 2010

  • Unions, through collective bargaining, collaborate with school districts to guarantee hiring and firing policies that provide a process for remediation and professional development for weak or emerging teachers, due process that protects teachers from unfair hiring and firing practices, and a fair and appropriate means for removing teachers that do not effectively perform their duties.
  • The rights of teachers to bargain collectively is also under attack through the use of legislation in states like Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Ohio and Louisiana backed by heavily financed anti-union groups like ALEC, Stand for Children, DFER, and Children First. The leadership of both political parties have been complicit in these attacks.
  • Privately managed charter schools are being used to disband teachers’ unions and take away collective bargaining rights of thousands of charter school teachers.
  • The right to collectively bargain is recognized through international human rights conventions. Article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights identifies the ability to organize trade unions as a fundamental human right.[3] Item 2(a) of the International Labour Organization’s Declaration of Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work defines the “freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining” as an essential right of workers. [4]

RESOLUTIONS

1. SOS supports the right of all teachers in every state to bargain collectively as members of teachers’ unions. We oppose the current wave of legislative efforts to ban unions or to limit their ability to represent their members inside and outside of contract negotiations including, but not limited to: rights for unions to collectively bargain, the rights of unionized teachers to due process rights, and the right of unions to collect dues from their members.

2. SOS salutes our brothers and sisters in the NEA and AFT for signing on to the National Resolution on High Stakes Testing. [5]

3. SOS opposes the unlimited expansion of privately-managed charter schools which bar their teachers from holding union membership so as to actively and illegally resist union affiliation.

4. SOS supports the early attempts to organize charter school teachers into unions. Charter school unions should also have the right to affiliate with the NEA and AFT.

5. SOS stands with our union brothers and sisters in the fight for higher wages, improved working conditions, protection of their pensions, healthcare benefits, and job security (especially for veteran teachers).

6. SOS opposes the current move to replace veteran teachers (usually members of the teachers’ union) with inexperienced, lower-paid, novice teachers, such as those provided by organizations like Teach For America.
The Largest Charter Chain in the U.S. Is…? by Diane Ravitch.

7. SOS opposes all current initiatives, especially those put forward under No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, to undermine existing collective bargaining agreements.

8. SOS supports a union position strongly opposing merit pay and value-added teacher evaluation based on high stakes standardized test scores.

9. Currently, all eyes are on Chicago [6] where the Chicago Teachers’ Union (CTU) is setting a powerful example of “fighting unionism.” [7] SOS supports the CTU in its current contract struggle and its fight against the powerful forces of corporate school reform. If Chicago teachers go on strike, SOS will organize strike support actions nationwide.

10. SOS believes that teachers’ working conditions are students’ learning conditions, and we oppose the false idea that the interests of teachers and students are in opposition.

11. SOS supports organized labor’s efforts in building greater racial diversity in the teaching profession.


[1] Erik Kain, “Why I Support the Teachers Unions.” Forbes Magazine, September 28, 2011

[2] Diane Ravitch: “Why Teacher Unions Are Good for Teachers – and the Public.” American Educator

[3] United nationals General Assembly (1948). “Article 23.” Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Paris.

[4] International Labour Organization (1998). Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. 86th Session: Geneva.

[5] National Resolution of High Stakes Testing

[6] Richard Seymour: “Chicago’s teachers could strike a blow for organized labour globally.” U.K. Guardian, July 16, 2012.

[7] “Hey hey. Ho ho. Rahm Emanuel has got to go!Mike Klonsky’s Small Talk Blog, May 23, 2012.