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.