Teaching is one of the most important jobs in the world. An average teacher will take care of 15-40 students at a time while pulling 60-70 hour weeks. Teachers are pushed around by students, administrators, and even parents, especially in today’s climate. This has made teaching a grueling position and without the proper support, schools can find they have a shortage of teachers quite easily. What are the pros and cons of teacher’s unions?
While many school systems do not have them, a teacher’s union can be quite beneficial to help protect the teachers and make sure they are getting a fair shake at their jobs. Representation is important and considering how teachers are often treated in some schools, it can be a real advantage for teachers to unionize and collaborate. That being said, there are some disadvantages to having a union as well. This can be quite intimidating for new teachers wanting to join the education profession.
The Pros of Teacher Unions
First and foremost is the representation that teacher unions give you. When in a teacher’s union, you are never alone as you have a whole group of teachers standing with you, collaborating and supporting other teachers to provide a better working environment. Having this representation takes a lot of pressure off the teachers of handling administrations by themselves and helps them take on higher-ups that like to push teachers around.
While many administrations treat teachers well, some administrators like to throw their weight around and it helps to have this representation from the union as a pillar of support. This also allows teachers to group up and handle major issues within a school system together. As for the individual teacher, this representation helps support the teacher in dealing with the complications of a school system and provides additional support to those who need it.
Salary and Employee Benefit Protections
When getting into education, it is no secret that teachers are criminally underpaid for the work that they do. Sadly, there has been a multitude of cries from educators to receive more pay, but many of those cries go unnoticed or unrealized. When having a teacher’s union behind you, the benefits and salaries for educators tend to be higher.
Furthermore, teachers that belong to unions will have certain contractual protections for their benefits and salaries. If those benefits are not up to par, then the union can strike for better conditions in a more organized fashion. One major example of this was back in 2019 when the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) had a strike to provide more financial support for their teachers. This strike led to new teachers with outside experience being able to start at higher salary rates than before.
Without the CTU, the teachers in Chicago would not have been able to bargain for a better contract in such an organized way. When you have happy teachers that are taken care of and paid well, you will see the benefits trickle down to the students.
One of the worst facts about education is that many administrators and decision-makers for school systems are not teachers. Strange, but true. Many of the people making the key decisions about curriculum, salaries, benefits, scheduling, and protocol have not been teachers themselves, so it makes it more difficult to negotiate with those that do not understand what it is like in the classroom. This is why having the teacher’s union is beneficial.
With the union backing up educators, teachers are able to collectively bargain with administrators as a group. Unions will often have meetings and voting times to see how teachers and staff wish to proceed on particular issues. This allows for teachers and staff to make moves together as one. When this happens, there is a unified front that fights for teacher’s needs when at the bargaining table with school systems.
With collective bargaining, teachers are able to push for better contracts and work together to solve a myriad of problems.
Teachers face so many different issues nowadays. It has always been a complicated and stress-inducing job. Teachers not only have to understand and teach the curriculum properly, but they also have to deal with their students’ problems and help them come to solutions in a healthy way. On top of that, teachers often get pushed around by administrators to make sure teachers are giving specific top-notch instruction.
With so many unique problems that teachers face, having a union backing them up gives them additional support when handling these problems. If a teacher gets in trouble for one reason or another, the union will help them in every way they can. This way, the teacher does not feel that they have to face things on their own, especially when they feel differently than administrators. Teachers that have this level of support feel more appreciated and protected from difficult school systems.
When working in a teacher’s union, there is a feeling of collaboration that helps teachers feel supported and appreciated. Teachers and staff collaborate with each other on a variety of issues. This includes curriculum, resources, planning, classroom management techniques, and other important points of education.
Quite often, teachers and staff are part of some private social media group where they can speak openly and privately about the issues within their schools. In this heightened state of the world, this helps teachers and staff deal with complicated issues by collaborating with other teachers to help better solve problems.
Within these groups, teachers are able to get advice from teachers from different districts and work outside their own school. This is immensely helpful to teachers just starting out as it allows them to ask tough questions to mentor and other experienced teachers and staff.
Everyone wants to feel secure in their job. Following up from the previous section, belonging to a teacher’s union gives a teacher job security as it prevents many issues with discipline and salary disputes.
With a teacher’s union backing you up, teachers can breathe a little easier knowing that a union representative is always available and ready to assist teachers with any issue that comes up between them and administrators. Feeling secure in your job brings about a happier mindset and lets teachers focus on what is important: giving their students high-quality education.
The Cons of Teacher Unions
While belonging to a teacher union has many benefits, there are always some issues that come up. One such issue is the arguments that can happen when trying to deal with a specific problem. Teacher unions do give teachers a voice, however, when everyone has a voice, sometimes arguments can break out.
The aforementioned social media groups sometimes will have teachers and staff arguing over what the best course of action might be, which can cause insults and fighting among the staff. This can be quite problematic as the whole point of the union is to make teachers feel supported. Sometimes, problems can be quite controversial.
One such example of this would be the recent Covid-19 outbreak. This caused many teacher unions to bicker about how the mask mandates affect the schools and whether or not all teachers should be required to be vaccinated. Situations like these are never ideal, but can make for good arguments.
There are some companies and systems that have so many issues within it, that it is hard to determine which issues to handle first. Education is one of these systems that have a lot of problems. With that said, unions do their best to try to manage these problems, but it can be challenging to figure out which problems to prioritize.
Unions themselves have presidents and board members and they end up being the ones that push particular agendas. This can make things more complicated for teachers that might have a different opinion of which problems more affect their classrooms. This can also manifest itself when some teachers and staff want to move on from a particular problem, but the board does not. This can cause ripples within a union. Since many administrations want to dismantle unions, these situations are something that they find ideal so as to broaden the ridge between opinions.
Belonging to a teacher union has many benefits, however, those benefits do come at a cost. One of those costs comes in the form of professional development sessions. Union members will often have to attend these extra professional development sessions as part of the contractual obligation to the school system contract. This can cut into preparation time and sometimes can even require teachers to show up on off days.
Quite often, these professional development sessions can be dull and pedantic. Teachers will spend hours listening to things that are fairly obvious and do not have any real value in the classroom.
The public image of a teacher union is quite important, especially when dealing with controversial issues. As mentioned before, many organizations want to see the destruction of the unions because it breaks up the power that they have over those organizations.
Therefore, unions often have to battle other organizations to maintain their public image. This can make things very difficult for unions and can occasionally have teachers and staff thrown under the bus on a national scale.
Teachers can feel a multitude of emotions when seeing their issues being aired out on the news and the battle of public image can be quite exhausting and unnerving for all who are involved.
Oh, did you think that belonging to a teacher union was free? No, not at all. While the fees are not overly expensive, every teacher that belongs to the union must pay union fees. This usually ends up being around $100 or so a month, but can be more expensive depending on the union itself.
The union fees can be fine if that particular union handles their teachers and staff situation well, but for some unions, this can feel more of a jip, especially if the union itself has corruption in its rank. Teachers want to feel that their membership fees are going to people who are going to represent their interests and unfortunately, some people take advantage of that.
Group vs Individuals
Another disadvantage of teacher unions is having the group moving against an individual. What this means is that sometimes individual schools or teachers have a specific issue and this can be overlooked by the union as it does not pertain to a large group of people. This can often leave teachers or schools feeling unnoticed and unsupported. In another sense, when there is a vote within a union, sometimes the results can be split.
When this happens, a rift can form between the union and its members. Because of this, many members can feel upset and will sometimes leave the union because of the results of that vote. Many teachers want to feel appreciated and that they have a voice and when this does not happen, the teacher can feel upset by the union.