Thursday, April 10, 2008

Union Mentality?

After our staff meeting today, we teachers remained behind for a "union meeting." I'm not a union member, but I'm entitled to be at such meetings because I do pay for representation and am thus still a "bargaining unit member", or BUM =)

Our district is looking at changing our overall calendar--school start date, school end date, and vacation days. Our union rep gave us the four options being considered and asked for our input, so that he could take that input to the union, who would compile the "will of the teachers" and take that information to the district.

As we started to vote, one teacher called out, "Some people here aren't entitled to vote because they're not union members." That comment was stifled by the agitated mumbling of the group--but you've got to love that kind of mentality.

How can you represent me before the district if you don't find out how I want to be represented?

Sadly, though, I'm sure CTA would agree with her. This is exactly why union membership should be voluntary, exactly why so-called "fair share" agency fees are a farce, and why the legal requirement for the union to represent even non-members is un-American.

Update, 4/11/08: How could I post about this and not mention the California Teachers Empowerment Network? Teachers who encounter what I did will find that CTEN welcomes their voluntary association.

Update #2, 4/14/08: There's been a very positive resolution to this, one I've written about here.


Rhymes With Right said...

The reality, of course, is that they don't want to represent your deviant views -- or the views of anyone else who dares oppose what the union hierarchy thinks.

But then again, that is why you quit the CTA.

justapixel said...

It's the same with classified, although we don't even get input into the school calendar if we are a full dues-paying member (which, like you, I am not).

If you ever do get a vote, keep this in mind: I don't want to start my year in July because the high schools don't want testing after Christmas break. :)

Law and Order Teacher said...

That kind of conduct makes me proud to be a union member. What I hate is union members who don't think for themselves and act like sheep. Most allow the union leadership to dictate to them what to think. How pathetic.

Darren said...

I'm with you, justapixel. My classroom doesn't even have a/c (5 years now, to no avail) and it's bad enough in May. In August and September it's miserable.

Sometimes I just want to stop class and put on that scene in Stand And Deliver where the calculus students are cramming during summer w/o a/c, eating oranges to stay cool.

Anyway, your comment makes me think you're in my district, yet in my district, classified members are in a different union from the teachers. What am I misreading?

Whether you're in my district or not, thank you for reading my blog!

Ronnie said...

If you aren't part of the union you still reap the benefits from their collective bargaining. It's a clear instance of free riders gaining benefits, such as those provided by the union's collective bargaining, without paying. The only logical way to prevent free riders is to force everyone to pay. It's the same reason you don't have a choice to be taxed by the government. If it was a choice no one would choose it and therefore it would fail. Logically there is no other solution that can internalize free rider costs so your argument is you deserve free services as a right.

I understand your views are drastically different than the union's, but the solution lies in forcing the union to spend union dues on improving conditions for union members and not politics. If you argue otherwise, that you have the right to pay nothing and receive benefits, aren't you just arguing for socialism?

Darren said...

I'm not a "free rider", I'm a "forced rider". I don't get the "benefits" of union negotiation, supposedly on my behalf, I get the tyranny of forced association with them.

The best solution lies in not forcing us to associate with each other. I think I could negotiate better for myself, or through a voluntary association of like teachers (say, math and science teachers), than through forced unionism.

The comparison of unions to government is specious. We already have a government. Besides, it doesn't strike me as valid to have a government entity take my money and give it to a non-government entity--and however much that non-government entity wants, they get!

Sorry, Ron. This one cannot be justified, and you're choosing the side of injustice.

Ronnie said...

I understand the situation you have now, I'm just pointing out how illogical and impractical what you want is. Are you willing to have no pay increases unless you yourself can negotiate them, are you willing to have no representation in lawsuits? If that's the case then sure that would be completely fair.

But my main problem with that is that it isn't very practical to have many groups constantly bargaining for different pay; a one union system is drastically more efficient. Also each smaller union would have less bargaining power than a combined single union, which slightly undermines the original intent. If I was in charge of hiring teachers for a school system I would much rather have the simplicity of dealing with one union than many unions or even possibly individuals. If you think not hiring someone based on their political party is reasonable, how could union membership be any different.

justapixel said...

I am in a different union than you are, true, but we still have the same situation. I dislike unions but am required to pay them for collective bargaining. But, I never really "joined" so I'm not a full union member.

I think the militancy is lessened with classified though - there aren't enough of us at each school to make it hard on those who disagree with us. The union meetings are at a pizza joint, not on campus, and if you don't go, nobody knows who you are.

Chanman said...

I have never understood how we BUMs are forced to pay the Union dues for contract negotiations, but then we can't vote on the proposals and outcomes of those negotiations. Whether the dues are voluntary or forced, we BUMs are STILL PAYING THEM. Yet we are shut out.

I also feel the same way about the NEA/CTA attempt to keep kids who are homeschooled from using public school facilities for classes or labs that are difficult to do in the home. The kid may not be attending that public school, but by God that kid's parents are still paying the property taxes that support it.

allen (from Michigan) said...

Oh Ronnie, you've fully metabolized the union catechism.

A union's a monopoly on labor. As such, there's no room for competitors, like non-members, in its market.

If membership were voluntary then the union would have to provide a benefit to not only its members but to its customer, the employer, as well. Otherwise, by simply paying members and non-members the same wage, the "customer" could drive the union out of existence. Union members would have to fork over dues while non-members wouldn't. Why join?

But the monopoly status of unions allows them to ignore, to a large extent, the needs of their customer. So much so that occasionally unions kill the goose that lays the golden egg although usually cooler heads prevail if demands are likely to bankrupt the employer.

Darren said...

Ronnie, I have nothing against the concept of unions, but I despise what we have in practice. Forced unionism is tyranny--I'd rather have voluntary associations.

I already don't get legal representation from the union because I'm not a member. I do, however, get better legal coverage from the Association of American Educators.

Allen, as far as killing the goose that lays the golden eggs--how are Detroit carmakers doing today, in part thanks to the UAW? I'm sure all those "displaced" UAW workers are just thrilled that their militant union negotiated those high wage and benefits packages for them back in the day.

Yes, I think I could do better for myself than the union does--especially if some math and science teachers got together :-)

hobbitt said...

Ronnie, I'm not a member of a union. Nor is my state am I required, and it is not very powerful in my state. Every now and then they do the membership drive and offer as its key points is the "we will pay for a lawyer if you get sued." At the risk of ego, I do not plan on getting sued, if I screw up I will take my medicine. If I do get sued and am innocent I have a very good lawyer who will happily take on anybody, especially for countersuits.

My point is the law thing is "if that is the best you can offer, I'm not interested." Somehow it implies that teachers desperately need legal protection either because they are incompetent or they are major targets.

allen (from Michigan) said...

> how are Detroit carmakers doing today, in part thanks to the UAW?

Case in point exacerbated by the de facto monopoly enjoyed by the American car manufacturers. The car makers screwed the public and the UAW screwed the car companies.

What's not appreciated outside Michigan is that the state government accommodated itself to this situation. Tax policy was predicated on all that nice money rolling into Michigan and as the tax take declined the first thing to suffer was infrastructure maintenance. It didn't help that our federal reps were either in the wrong party or too junior to funnel the pork home.

So now our roads are the worst in the nation thanks, indirectly, to the UAW. I suppose there's something ironic about that but I don't feel like putting on my miner's helmet and going spelunking.

> Yes, I think I could do better for myself than the union does--especially if some math and science teachers got together :-)

It's interesting how that implied threat has gone from being wishful thinking to a doable proposition.

Change is in the air bucko. Change is in the air.

Darren said...

Not in California, it's not. Not any time soon.

But read my *next* post--a welcome breeze!

Darren said...


Last summer I attended a conference about forced unionism. In attendance were people from all over the country. Many of them came from "Right To Work" states, where paying a union is optional.

When unionism is optional, the union has to work to satisfy the membership. As it is in California and other states, they just get my money--because the law says they're entitled to it--and it doesn't matter if they satisfy me or anyone else.

If you support that, aren't you supporting the kind of elitism that looks down on the masses because "we know what's best for you"?

Anyway, those people in RTW states didn't seem to think they needed unions to have a good life.

allen (from Michigan) said...

> Not in California, it's not. Not any time soon.

For a guy who owns a chunk of the Berlin wall you're awfully sure about the continued health of the Evil Educational Empire.

Darren said...

Good point.