Friday, April 11, 2008

Local Union Does Good

In my previous post I vented about what happened at yesterday's union meeting. After getting that out of my system, though, I emailed my school's union rep and suggested that we meet and identify which items are "union things", that I can be excluded from, and which are "bargaining unit member things" that I cannot be excluded from. He referred me to our local union president.

I sent the president my dispassionate view of what transpired at the union meeting, and offered to meet him to identify that which is union and that which is bargaining unit. I closed with the hope that we could resolve this issue quickly so that we may, at this time of impasse in contract negotiations with the school district, present a united front instead of bickering amongst ourselves.

The union president contacted my site rep to get his view of yesterday's events, which I assume was close to mine. Within a couple hours today I received word that the union's executive board met and decided that bargaining unit members--which includes all teachers, not just union members--can now "vote on such things as calendar, salaries, etc."

I emailed the president, thanking him for his rapid attention to this matter and for offering such a fair and reasonable resolution. I asked for a clarification: does this really mean I get to vote on such things as contract ratification, strike authorizations, and the like? The response was that the executive board only discussed contract ratification, not strike authorization--but we can now vote on our contract.

Dear readers, this is BIG. Even though it's the right and just thing to do, legally they're not required to let me vote on my contract. Right now I don't know or care why they chose to resolve the problem this way, to change the longstanding practice of disenfranchising non-members; I'm still too swept up in the euphoria of being on the receiving end of justice and fairness.

I now have a vote.

When unions do the right thing, I will give them credit for doing so. My local union has done the right thing here.

Is this the end, is there nothing more I'd like or expect from them? It's not the end, and there is more. But there's plenty of time to move on those goals later. My local union has taken a very big first step, made a very powerful statement. Let's celebrate that for awhile.


Donalbain said...

How does a strike work in such a situation?
If the Union goes on strike, are you expected to strike as well? Does your school stay open during a strike? Would you get paid if it closed? Would you cover lessons for colleagues who are on strike if you are not?

For the record there are a number of teachers unions in the UK.

Mike Antonucci said...

Your local has shown uncommon good sense. But locals everywhere have discretion on who gets to vote on the contract. Unless it so states in their bylaws, they are not legally bound to put contract ratification to a rank-and-file vote at all.

That's right. The union doesn't have to let anyone vote on the contract.

Darren said...

School strikes are an interesting issue, and very rare.

If the union voted to go on strike, they would expect me to as well. (Whether or not I would, when I couldn't vote, is up for grabs.) Crossing picket lines causes *many* hard feelings, though.

Usually districts try to keep the schools open to break the strike. I don't know if districts can lock out all teachers and bring in replacements or not--but they probably wouldn't, as they'd need every body they could get to keep kids in classes.

Incidentally, the two best times to strike are at the beginning of the year and the end of the year. NO PARENT wants their kid's graduation to be marred, and by the end of summer every parent wants their kid back in school.

Donalbain said...

There is a strong possibility that one of the UK teaching unions will strike soon. However, I am in a different union, so I would not strike myself (and nobody would expect me to) but I would not cover the classes of anyone who was on strike.