On Why You Should Support Teachers Unions

Imagine a teacher getting threats from their administration just because the administrator doesn't like them. Imagine a teacher receiving a letter in their file for the charge of having their own cup of coffee in their classroom. Imagine a teacher seeing administrators for observation after ridiculous observation simply because the kids like him better. Imagine a teacher getting humiliated in front of their students for not doing their bulletin board, or for knowing how to use the Internet. Imagine a new teacher getting threatened with probation or an unsatisfactory rating for wondering why their class is always considered last for everything when other classes get more privileges. Imagine how secure any teacher must feel with a climate that allows for these sorts of incidents.

You don't, because it's happening. Teachers unions aren't just about the ability to collectively bargain, but to ensure that the people in the classroom (teachers and students) can do the best job possible without the belligerence of inept managers that pervade our school systems today. It's not to say that every manager is inept, much like I would never say every teacher is perfect. But I do think every teacher deserves the right to get a true justification for their dismissal. These days, it's much harder to become a teacher and close to 80 percent of all teachers see this as a life-long career, contrary to the movement of alternative certification programs like Teach for America.

All teachers are asking for is to sit at a table as part of the diners and not part of the menu.

Many who work in the private sector don't understand why we in the public sector have an affinity for our unions. A part of this stems from the portrayals of unions in the (corporate) media and the devastating wave of Reaganomics. Even some fellow teachers see the current wave of dissent against teachers and have waved the white flags, conceding to the attitude that no one's going to do anything anyways. For too many people, they believe that our government will grant us health benefits and time rights as part and parcel of the job, and the union wouldn't be necessary in the present and future context.

Except that's not true. Look at all the places without unions and ask them how much safer they feel in their jobs. Ask California unions how strong their membership is without the tens of thousands of teachers without a job due to the economy. Ask all the charter schools and independent schools about the frivolous "just causes" they have for losing their jobs. Look at all the new initiatives to make pensions look inflated when they take up fractions of the budget and all the third party contracts going out in droves when teachers can't get textbooks from Reagan's first inauguration.

If our government can intentionally mismanage money like this, imagine what they can do to your contract. Well, no need to imagine, because for many teachers in this country, it's already happening. A union, then, represents the ability for those of us as union members to negotiate in good faith with those who would hire us. Our union leaders don't always represent us as we need them to, either. As times change, they too must change the way they perceive what teachers (and students) need.

However, let me make one thing perfectly clear: I wouldn't have a job without my union, and neither would many of my subversive and awesome teachers. When I see some of my fellow teachers and lefties align themselves with anti-union folks, I simply shake my head. Who wouldn't want the right to negotiate fairly, have an appropriate time to eat lunch and plan for kids, have a way of ensuring due process when terminated under suspect causes, or have a collective of teachers looking out for one another when you're fresh into the system?

I know I do, and I suspect the rest of you do, too, whether you're in the public or private sector. Without our unions, we leave lots of room for the regress that our previous generations of teachers fought so hard for.