If SB5 Passes, Can Teacher Unions Morph Into Teacher Professional Associations?

My site meter has had a big surge in the last couple of weeks because of a July, 2009 post: “NEA’s Top Attorney, Bob Chanin, Says NEA’s First Goal Is To Advance And Protect Teacher Rights,” in which I show a you-tube video of Chanin making a speech to an NEA assembly as he retired after 41 years of service.

I was so amazed at what this man admitted in public that I transcribed several key paragraphs. In the speech, Chanin vigorously defended the fact that NEA is first and foremost a union.

It’s fair to see Ohio’s SB5 as, in part, a push back to the actions and attitudes of the teacher unions of Chanin’s era. If SB5 is approved, it will be a huge blow to unions. If the requirement for nonunion workers to pay “fair share” is abolished, then union membership will likely be decimated. A lot of teachers will respond to their loss of income, caused by SB5, by keeping the $700 or so in union dues and not joining the union.

OEA and NEA likely will respond to the approval of SB5 is a totally reactive way, but, in time, if SB5 withstands a public referendum, teacher unions will need to craft a proactive response, one based on a thoughtful vision of the future.

Thinking through a thoughtful vision of the future will be the hard part. SB5 is a rejection of old-time teacher unionism. But, because SB5 is also a rejection of the factory model of education and a rejection of the blue colorization of teachers, the approval of SB5, in the long run, will offer an opportunity for teacher unions to remake themselves.

In the long run, SB5 could result in creating a lot of new opportunities for the teaching profession, particularly if teachers would have an “Education Association” that could effectively lobby on their behalf.

On the other hand, unless teachers have effective leadership and representation, SB5 could result in a rapid acceleration of the loss of professional responsibility of teachers.  The temptation for the management of schools and the management of educational systems, once they are empowered with dictatorial control, will be to find ways to marginally raise test scores by imposing ever stronger systems of control.

Can teacher unions somehow envision a future of teacher professionalism and can these unions fulfill a positive role in bringing that future to reality? SB5, I’m wondering, may be an impetus to teacher unions to somehow morph away from an industrial type union — one that sees teachers, basically, as factory workers — and to grow into a meaningful “Education Association” of professionals, who collaborate together to advance the profession and who work together to advance the opportunities open to teaching professionals.

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11 comments to If SB5 Passes, Can Teacher Unions Morph Into Teacher Professional Associations?

  • BBteacher

    Just to clarify. “Fair share” is not required throughout the state. In our district, it is a negotiate item, which has never been approved by the local BOE.

  • The Natural Skeptic

    All these unionized workers need to stop whining and get in the same boat that every other worker is in. Many people would gladly accept a teacher’s salary of $60,000, with reasonable benefits and a 185-day work year, plus a comfy retirement pension instead of working three minimum-wage jobs just to keep food on the table. It’s like you’ve given someone the keys to a new Cadillac, but they won’t shut up about the fact you took the heated seats out. You are still driving a Cadillac when everyone else is putting around in 20 year old beaters!!

  • Mike you should not have been surprised by Bob Chanin’s remarks as they echo something Mr. Shankar (ph) head of the American Federation of Teachers said decades ago. He stated he would start worrying about students when they began paying union dues.

  • Eric

    teacher unions will need to craft a proactive response

    Now is the time for a proactive response. The most likely future response will be get-out-the-vote in 2012.

    SB5 is a rejection of old-time teacher unionism

    Or is old-time teacher unionism a rejection of Ohio’s constitutional mandate for a “thorough and efficient system” of public schools?

    approval of SB5, in the long run, will offer an opportunity for teacher unions to remake themselves … Can teacher unions somehow envision a future of teacher professionalism

    Sounds like America’s teachers need help from the Kettering Foundation. Perhaps an issues forum on the theme:
    Teacher Professionalism: How can our unions be relevant to our future?

  • Jerry

    Mr. Uh Skeptic,

    Here is a news flash for you. Teachers have degrees. In Ohio it is now required that they have Masters degrees. So how you can compare a worker with barely a high school education to a teacher for similar salary is garbage. There is no way someone who has spent the amount of time and money to gain a degree should get paid the same as a high school graduate. If you think teaching in today’s environment is a cushy job then you are as blind as they come. I am a conservative. I am a teacher. I am forced to belong to a union I do not support but this goes way too far. Here is another news flash, If you ask every teacher in Ohio if they would rather keep there current salary structure and go to teaching all year round to a man they would be fine with that. I am tired of the “they only work 9 months out of the year” garbage. Have you looked at what your representatives’ schedules looks like? I do not hear them wanting a pay cut. I say put me on Social Security and let me do my own retirement. I am all for that, but reducing teachers to McDonald’s worker status is wrong and a smack in the face of higher education.

  • Eric

    There is no way someone who has spent the amount of time and money to gain a degree should get paid the same as a high school graduate.

    This presumes the additional education improves job performance. Bill Gates hasn’t found evidence of this for MEd degrees.

    I am forced to belong to a union I do not support but this goes way too far.

    Senator Lehner asked for help to ensure effective teachers for all Ohio public school students. Why is the union you do not support so effective in suppressing good ideas from well-educated teachers that might help the Senator?

  • Proud to Teach

    I am a teacher and proud of it. I belong to my union, only b/c I was paying fair share and did not see the justification in NOT being a part of it. Recently, I have seen the true colors of the union, and quite frankly, I don’t like it. BUT, I do wonder why teachers have become “Public Enemy #1?!
    To THE NATURAL SKEPTIC…you need to do a little more research. $60,000 a year??? I know that there is not ONE teacher in my distric making that. Cushy retirement?!?! HA, the teacher’s retirement is going bust! 185 work year….hahaha….my days off are not spent at the spa, they are spent grading, lesson planning, and preparing for the next school year.
    If you ask any teacher of merit, they CHOSE this profession b/c it is something they love to do and feel passionate about. They did not choose it b/c of all the “perks” that Joe Public thinks we have. Spend a day in our shoes before you blast what we do.

  • I am not at all surprised by what Chanin said. He has been echoed by every union I was forced to join in order to keep my job. At every meeting we were told by our leadership that our union must survive. In good times and bad, it was all about the union itself, not about how to protect quality teachers from losing their jobs, but how to protect those who had managed to hang on the longest.

    It is time that teachers take a good hard look at themselves and what their unions are telling them. Schools are, in effect, a business. They are a business paid for by tax dollars. Tax payers are growing more and more comfortable insisting upon a quality product for their dollars.

    Unions are, in effect, a business. Businesses paid for by teacher dues. Are you comfortable with the idea that many of our union bosses at the state and national levels are making six figure salaries off of your dues while you are struggling to pay those dues? Remember, these are the same bosses who drum into you that if you are the last in, you have to be the first out, regardless of your abilites. Your dues have put that into your contracts and now many of you are facing pink slips.

  • C.B.

    In Ohio, the OEA is the problem.

    It’s no wonder why the OEA employees are fighting so hard to bring down Senate Bill 5. By the way, they are now going to take an additional $50 more in dues from each OEA member to fund the referendum campaign to knock out SB 5 in November, and save their six-figure salaries.. That’s just the OEA. The NEA has yet to announce how much they would like to take out of my pocket in order to maintain their powerhouse status.

    Here’s a novel idea. Simply, make Ohio a right to work state, which means you may or may not join the union by choice, rather than having to pay the $700 – $900 “agency fee” or “fair share fee” if you choose not to join. Forget the complicated Senate Bill 5 and just do that. The OEA would come crashing down in a hurry. It’s amazing how many educated teachers are brainwashed by the OEA into thinking it is their only option for protection. The Association of American Educators offers more professional liability coverage and labor representation for $180 a year. If the teachers did this, then they could set up a local bargaining unit, keeping the money wasted to the OEA at home, and use it for their legal representation during bargaining or any other local savings or improvements.

  • Liz

    Has anyone taken a closer look as to who is closely tied to the teacher unions at the federal level? PLEASE I urge you to look up Van Jones and his (bottom up, top down and inside out theory). George Sorus is another man that is utterly using the teacher unions as pawns to cause disorder to destroy our country financially. I wonder how much he has profited from the unions. On the surface he seems good, please dig a little deeper. Bottom line is that unions are intentionally not self-sustaining. Maybe that’s how the “new math” came into play. NOT everyone (George and Van Jones) has are best interests at heart. We need to take a closer look at senate bill5 and work things out!!
    In closing, if you pray, pray about our great nation under God!!

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