Why Unions for teachers?


This post supports a larger Teacher Blog Action Day on Why teachers like us (good ones) support unions

My support for my union is based on many experiences; my own experiences teaching, my experiences at other jobs in other professions, the working experience of relatives. Most especially, it’s those experiences as women in the workplace that really showed me the need for a union.

First, the history of teachers unions is wrapped in the history of women in the workplace and labor movement. Most teachers were women (they still make up most of the teaching ranks today). The need for unions came about, not just because of bad pay and working conditions, but because those conditions reflected sexism and patriarchy in the workplace and society.

Least we think those conditions are in the past, you just have to look at how people still see our profession, as essentially a “part time” job with summers off. I’ve  had men whose mothers were teachers tell me what a great job it would be while I’m raising a kid. I started my first year teaching when my son was 2 years old. Thank god I have a spouse who was willing to help because I don’t know how I did it. Meanwhile, the reality is that I’ve had principals in interviews demand I give up my lunch periods to do tutoring. Although I balked at that wholesale request, I regularly end up cutting lunches short to prepare for my next period, or deal with administrative tasks.

In the bigger picture, teachers make up a big part of female union members. If we lose our unions, you are getting rid of one the biggest blocks of female union members, and females lose one of the few jobs categories that are unionized. Fewer females in unions, fewer unions for females.

Are unions perfect? No, but like all organization, it depends on its members to make it work.  If you feel your union is out of touch and not representing your interest there is a solution, become more active. If you like what they’re doing, you should  also be active to keep the good stuff going. This is why I am running for union office, to keep our organization strong, and bring some of my 21st century skills to our organizing efforts.

If you like having a pension you can count on and want to have some say in your pay and work conditions, take responsibility and provide your share of leadership. If you don’t like the idea of being fired because your “salary costs too much” or your administrator doesn’t like you, take responsibility and do something about it and don’t just be like a caller into talk radio who feels that by whining they’re making a difference.

3 Comments to

“Why Unions for teachers?”

  1. March 22nd, 2011 at 7:07 am      Reply Nancy Flanagan Says:

    Great post, Alice.

    I started teaching in the early 70s and plenty of the women I worked with (especially the elementary teachers) had horror stories about the 1950s, when they worked 55 minutes longer per day than the men who taught at the high school, plus had bus, lunch and recess duty (no small factor in freezing MI winters–ever try to put on 30 pairs of rubber boots in under 2 minutes?)…

    Thanks for posting today.

  2. March 22nd, 2011 at 8:00 pm      Reply Nancy Says:

    I agree– people comment all the time how easy teachers have it (people in my own family!) and how teachers need to stop griping and grow up. Excuse me?! Lots of similarities between the treatment of teachers and women– if a woman/teacher complains and gripes, s/he’s a nag but if a man/non-teaching professional complains and gripes, s/he’s assertive and standing up for himself.
    Thanks for pointing out the parallels between the struggles of women and teachers.

  3. March 23rd, 2011 at 4:10 pm      Reply Elona Hartjes Says:

    Our teacher union has provided a level playing field for women- same qualifications, same years of teaching experience = same salary. Over the years, it has even made it possible for women to smash through that glass ceiling. Female teachers were able to develop the leadership skills within the various committees in the union that helped them become VPs, Principals and Superintendents.


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