Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Teacher Unions: A Mixed Bag

 

I’ve wanted to write a post on my experience with school unions for a while now and have finally taken a stab at it. This is a huge topic so I’m trying to touch on a few different things that have been on my mind for a while. My experience was a real mixed bag and probably specific to Chicago. I don’t work for Chicago Public Schools (CPS) anymore but somehow I still get all the email from them and the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU). I’ll try to divvy this into subsections but we’ll see how it goes. One day I will write a short post…

I got my first teaching union when I got a job at one of the largest public schools on the north side of Chicago. There were about 100 faculty members, including special education aides serving a student population of about 1,400-1,500 students. I paid no attention to the union at all until one day the school’s union representative, one of the counselors, burst into my room with a clipboard and said, “I found you! You haven’t signed up for the CTU yet.” I asked her if everyone was a member and she said, “Yes, well, except one person.” I found out later that the lone non-member was “a Republican,” a math teacher who was “admin’s pet” and made all the charts and tables for the principal’s presentations. I got the message and I never said anything political to anyone which made life easier.

Resources and Supplies

CPS did not provide anything to teachers besides the bare minimum (desks, classroom textbooks, and whiteboards) to set up their classrooms. Everything else, teachers provided. To fill the gap, the CTU gives a $250 allowance to teachers at the start of every school year to spend on whatever resources they need with very few restrictions. To explain CPS classroom resources: the school’s tech guy brought paper twice a week to the teacher’s lounge. Each teacher could make up to 2,500 photocopies per quarter with a personal code in the copy machines and there was one (frequently-malfunctioning) Riso machine for unlimited copies…provided there were paper and toner. Math and social studies ran out of copies the fastest and would borrow codes from the special ed assistant teachers who never needed all their copies. Other resource requests ran the gamut from recently-published textbooks for classes (i.e., within the last 5-8 years because the old textbooks were often falling apart beyond the magic of duct tape) to repairs on shared musical instruments for band and orchestra classes, to repairs on the six Chromebook carts, each holding 31-32 devices. The CTU’s $250 helped teachers fill in a huge resource gap and paid for a tremendous amount of resources including personal paper supplies and ink cartridges for the printer, markers, pencils for students to use, and general classroom supplies that otherwise do cause a drain on your monthly budget. Elementary teachers spend an additional fortune on color markers, crayons, construction paper, and glue sticks.

Contract Issues

These issues on resources came up in a big way in 2016 when the contract came up for renegotiation and there was the threat of a strike. There were many meetings in which nearly the entire faculty was gathered and spoke about the effect of missed classes on students especially for an indefinite period, the effect of a long strike on their families, and how poor publicity would focus on pay demands and not on the requests for smaller class sizes (which sometimes were 35-38 students with no solutions for the overflow enacted by CPS; one of my colleagues said kids sat on the floor and on the window sills when he ran out of desks), a more regular evaluation schedule by administrators, submitting unit plans rather than weekly lesson plans, updated resources and dirty classrooms (rodent infestations in some buildings, building cleaners either not picking up trash or using cleaning products diluted with water). Pay raises were never mentioned in the meetings as a bargaining point but protecting the pensions was very important. The BLM/social justice warrior-speak was entirely absent, from my school at least. That isn’t the case anymore and the CTU’s rhetoric is squarely focused on issues of housing the homeless students, BLM, social justice, the police, etc. These were not parts of the 2016 contract negotiation.

In the most recent contract strike in 2019, a huge issue that emerged was the need to protect the libraries from closure. Many CPS schools still have libraries and a few of them still have a librarian on staff. There are two key points to make about this:

  1. The libraries in the three CPS schools that I worked in were no longer used as libraries. Students worked at big tables and sat in the stacks on their phones. However in terms of being functioning lending libraries, not anymore.
  2. Many librarians are not endorsed to teach anything other than library science. They have been teaching for a long time, they are tenured, and their salaries are expensive and they are not old enough to be retired early, an option that CPS offers every year to try to save a few pennies.
  3. Chicago has a good public library system with libraries in every neighborhood. Schools could create relationships with their local public libraries — my school was a five-minute walk from the public library.

Thus the union’s fight to “save the libraries” was not really about the importance of libraries at all, contrary to the opinion of many misguided liberals who wanted to rearrange the curriculum of several classes to teach students how to use the library instead of the internet. The Union was actually trying to save the very expensive librarians (in Chicago, a 20-plus year CPS veteran can earn around $90K) because they can’t be reassigned to teach anything else. The drive to save the libraries and their librarians was a foolhardy waste of the Union’s resources and a perfect example of waste in education that did nothing for the children. This is just one example. There are other examples of waste but the libraries were a good metaphor.

Time Management

It takes about four full years to make tenure as a teacher. Tenure is determined by arriving at a certain rating through evaluations (that’s a whole post). Until a teacher becomes tenured, there are three evaluations per year: two formal and one informal. There are strict rules regarding the days between the dates for interviews and evaluations and paperwork submissions for admin. A single missed date and the entire process can get scrapped. If the teacher has been preparing for an evaluation and the administrator does not get back to them within the time period but then suddenly requests to visit their classroom on a different date, that is considered grievable by the union because it inconveniences the teacher to such a great extent. Teachers feel an enormous pressure to perform for the evaluations because they lead to tenure (or in the case of tenured teachers, their tenure can be gradually threatened) and much depends on the personality of the administrator. If the teacher has a class with behavioral problems, that will often show up on the review even if the teacher has simply gotten a rough bunch of kids.

My experience: I met at 2:10 p.m. with my admin, the Assistant Principal, to discuss my evaluation write-up and at 3:40 he was still talking. He explained to me that I could improve how I wrote our class’s agenda on the board (in public school, admin loves to see how much time will be devoted to each activity during the period. The idea is that a student will look up confused in the middle of class and think, “what’s going on? I don’t know what I’m doing?” so the kid will look at the board, check their watch and say, “oh! right! we are supposed to be reading silently! I will do that now with my peers!” Not a joke.)

A colleague heard that my conference went on for 90 minutes and she told the union rep who came to find me. I confirmed it and the rep said, “oh, no way, that’s the last time that happens — he took advantage of your time because you didn’t know he had no contractual right to do that.” Shortly after, it was announced to the teachers that no evaluation conferences could take place after school — admin would have to finish all conferences within working hours. For teachers who had small children or obligations after school, this restriction on admin was met with relief.

Some of the victories from the 2016 contract negotiation were very helpful to teachers in the classroom. There was a requirement before the contract that teachers needed to put in two grades per week in the gradebook for every student, regardless of the subject. A full-time teacher teaches five periods per day. A normal class has about 30 students for a total load of 150 students. The two-grade-per-week requirement thus works out to 300 grades entered per week. But what if a teacher organized an activity that didn’t result in a grade that day? The union pushed for teachers to make their own autonomous decisions about how many grades needed to be entered for their classes with no requirement from admin. Another victory was getting schools the chance to choose whether they would submit unit maps or weekly unit plans. The scramble on Sunday evenings to plan all the weekly classes and submit everything to admin (and not hear anything back either) bothered many people and the union pushed to allow schools to vote independently allowed for much more flexibility.

Admin also organized the teachers and support staff onto teams that would meet after school to work on a variety of areas of the school that needed improvement — testing, discipline, technology, etc. The first problem though was that in a day of wight periods, five of which were occupied by teaching and the other three by meetings and class prep and grading, the teachers were unhappy about another responsibility being added to their plate. The first question at my discipline meeting was, “are we being paid for our time?”; when the answer was “no,” no one wanted to stay. Ultimately, people did stay because another teacher spoke up that while we had to do this for the children at least this one time, the union needed to see if our time could be reimbursed because this was another hour of our time after school. The groups seemed to fall apart with the union request because I don’t think there were funds to pay everyone for the number of meetings necessary to make the requisite changes. But it fell to the union once again to remove what was perceived as an extra task that admin put on the teachers’ plates.

Lessons

I hear quite a lot of conservatives talk about how the unions are corrupted and have too much power. I found it very uncomfortable to be wedged between the CTU, with whom I did not agree on policy, and CPS. There were benefits to membership in the union that made me appreciate parts of my experience. However, it came hand-in-hand with a sense of marked antagonism between admin and the teachers that was palpable from the moment I stepped into my first building. I experienced a lot of pressure to do more from admin and I felt very stressed already with the day-to-day of teaching. The union, therefore, helped to relieve the pressure of those demands and restore a sense of proportion to expectations and time frames. At their best, the CTU helped restore checks and balances at school. At their worst, they sat by and did nothing.

The emails that I receive from the CTU now are very different in tone. I do think the organization has grown too powerful and far too political. In the last strike, the teachers won a 15 percent pay raise over five years from Mayor Lori Lightfoot. The union refuses to compromise on remote learning (despite it being a total failure by every measurable standard), they say they are campaigning for equitable housing for all students but especially black and brown, they sent a contingent to Venezuela to look into the fabulous education system there, they have teachers on the front lines with BLM paraphernalia who bring it into their classrooms, turn the curriculum into a battleground with the CTU’s blessing, and promise to grieve any administrator who would protest (there aren’t many but there you go), protecting sanctuary schools, undocumented students, and a huge push to hire black teachers. The CTU was very liberal when I was there just a few years ago, but it wasn’t mind-numbingly woke.

There you have a sliver of the union experience in teaching. I have a headache now … but I’d still like to know what you think. What do unions look like in other states? Other sectors? Thanks, as ever, for letting me try your patience.)

Published in Education
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  1. Phil Turmel Coolidge

    I’ve had a lot of exposure to industrial unions, of all stripes, including striking papermakers in my hometown. In spite of that (very negative) experience, I’ve had positive experiences. I’m most impressed with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, due to their dead-serious approach to apprentice training. I’m least impressed with the auto-maker unions. (And the union bailout in 2008 infuriated me, as it allowed those pathologies to persist.)

    • #1
    • October 23, 2020, at 3:38 AM PDT
    • 8 likes
  2. Mark Camp Member

    Very informative!

    Thanks, Guillietta.

    • #2
    • October 23, 2020, at 3:41 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  3. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White MaleJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Phil Turmel (View Comment):

    I’ve had a lot of exposure to industrial unions, of all stripes, including striking papermakers in my hometown. In spite of that (very negative) experience, I’ve had positive experiences. I’m most impressed with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, due to their dead-serious approach to apprentice training. I’m least impressed with the auto-maker unions. (And the union bailout in 2008 infuriated me, as it allowed those pathologies to persist.)

    While I would never voluntarily belong to one, I don’t have a major problem with Private sector unions.

    Public sector unions should be killed with fire.

     

    • #3
    • October 23, 2020, at 5:55 AM PDT
    • 12 likes
  4. DonG (Biden is compromised) Coolidge

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):

    While I would never voluntarily belong to one, I don’t have a major problem with Private sector unions.

    Public sector unions should be killed with fire.

    I feel the same. There was a time when private sector unions helped improve worker safety. However, unions are often financially and politically corrupt. These days, workers are best protected by a growing economy and a consumers that care about workers.

    Public sector unions should be outlawed as their is no good faith negotiator to represent tax payers and consumers don’t have a choice. 

    • #4
    • October 23, 2020, at 7:09 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  5. Mark Camp Member

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):

    Phil Turmel (View Comment):

    I’ve had a lot of exposure to industrial unions, of all stripes, including striking papermakers in my hometown. In spite of that (very negative) experience, I’ve had positive experiences. I’m most impressed with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, due to their dead-serious approach to apprentice training. I’m least impressed with the auto-maker unions. (And the union bailout in 2008 infuriated me, as it allowed those pathologies to persist.)

    While I would never voluntarily belong to one, I don’t have a major problem with Private sector unions.

    Public sector unions should be killed with fire.

    The value of the article to me was that it gave an inside look at a public sector union, and it revealed to us outsiders that they can

    * do good for the citizens (that is, improve education) and

    * act as a check on incompetence and abuses of power by public sector managers.

    We non-teachers have no more idea about the day-to-day problems and abuses of teaching than we who are not welders or police officers do in those domains. In our ignorance, our opinions are distorted by a few sweeping generalizations (union bad, union good) driven in part by this or that ideology.

    That said, these unions have great power to do evil. On the whole I believe that they do far more harm than good, and ought to be outlawed or better yet, constrained by free market choices: if a given school district’s union is behaving badly (e.g., conspiring with the administration to spread Marxist/Racist propaganda, as Guillietta showed that they are now in her old district, or demanding above-market compensation for their contractually specified labor) there should be no obstacles whatsoever to voters electing school boards that will fire the union.

    The best solution of all would be to privatize education, with the powers of government to interfere limited to what is absolutely necessary, according to local democratic values and local conditions, which may vary from state to state, county to county, and municipality to municipality.

    [EDIT: I neglected to mention the argument against permitting public sector unions that DonG mentions above: With compulsory government-school attendance, there is no one representing the voters’ interest in negotiations with unions. The union simply buys the support of politicians at whatever price they demand, recovering the costs by demanding higher wages from the dishonest pols, or virtually extorting the wages from the public by strikes.]

    • #5
    • October 23, 2020, at 7:15 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  6. Giulietta Coolidge
    Giulietta

    Mark Camp (View Comment):

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):

    Phil Turmel (View Comment):

    The value of the article to me was that it gave an inside look at a public sector union, and it revealed to us outsiders that they can

    * do good for the citizens (that is, improve education) and

    * act as a check on incompetence and abuses of power by public sector managers.

    We non-teachers have no more idea about the day-to-day problems and abuses of teaching than we who are not welders or police officers do in those domains. In our ignorance, our opinions are distorted by a few sweeping generalizations (union bad, union good) driven in part by this or that ideology.

    That said, these unions have great power to do evil. On the whole I believe that they do far more harm than good, and ought to be outlawed or better yet, constrained by free market choices: if a given school district’s union is behaving badly (e.g., conspiring with the administration to spread Marxist/Racist propaganda, as Guillietta showed that they are now in her old district, or demanding above-market compensation for their contractually specified labor) there should be no obstacles whatsoever to voters electing school boards that will fire the union.

    The best solution of all would be to privatize education, with the powers of government to interfere limited to what is absolutely necessary, according to local democratic values and local conditions, which may vary from state to state, county to county, and municipality to municipality.

    [EDIT: I neglected to mention the argument against permitting public sector unions that DonG mentions above: With compulsory government-school attendance, there is no one representing the voters’ interest in negotiations with unions. The union simply buys the support of politicians at whatever price they demand, recovering the costs by demanding higher wages from the dishonest pols, or virtually extorting the wages from the public by strikes.]

    How you can impose a check on the power of public unions at this point? At its best the union checked the behavior of school admin and rules of the larger school system which was important in a huge system like CPS. There is no accountability outside of the teachers who pay dues for the CTU. There seem to be elections to fill delegate positions TO the CTU, but not for the people who run the CTU and that should be a concern to stakeholders in the city like parents who are unhappy about remote learning and pay taxes to support a system that is hemorrhaging money.

    • #6
    • October 23, 2020, at 9:37 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  7. HankRhody Freelance Philosopher Contributor

    Interesting post. I’m generally death on unions, but it seems that these guys did help y’all push back against the follies of administration. 

    Never been in a union myself, and never worked in a school system, but I recognize the pathology described. There are smart ways and stupid ways to go about continuous improvement. 

    • #7
    • October 23, 2020, at 11:41 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  8. Giulietta Coolidge
    Giulietta

    Phil Turmel (View Comment):

    I’ve had a lot of exposure to industrial unions, of all stripes, including striking papermakers in my hometown. In spite of that (very negative) experience, I’ve had positive experiences. I’m most impressed with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, due to their dead-serious approach to apprentice training. I’m least impressed with the auto-maker unions. (And the union bailout in 2008 infuriated me, as it allowed those pathologies to persist.)

    What do you think makes the approach of the Electrical Workers different from school unions?

    • #8
    • October 23, 2020, at 12:23 PM PDT
    • Like
  9. Giulietta Coolidge
    Giulietta

    DonG (skeptic) (View Comment):

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):

    While I would never voluntarily belong to one, I don’t have a major problem with Private sector unions.

    Public sector unions should be killed with fire.

    I feel the same. There was a time when private sector unions helped improve worker safety. However, unions are often financially and politically corrupt. These days, workers are best protected by a growing economy and a consumers that care about workers.

    Public sector unions should be outlawed as their is no good faith negotiator to represent tax payers and consumers don’t have a choice.

    I think the city and elected government is supposed to be the good faith negotiator but I think it’s fair to say that no one feels Lori Lightfoot represents the interests of taxpayers in these scenarios. And certainly as mentioned in another comment here, there is no real check on how the unions conduct themselves either though the Janus decision by SCOTUS might be a way that people can check out of union membership if they disprove of how it is run.

    • #9
    • October 23, 2020, at 12:29 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  10. Nohaaj Coolidge

    My former wife was a physics teacher in a very good suburban school district here in Pittsburgh. I have many stories she shared about union issues.

    The issue I have the most trouble with is the pension plan, and how the unions and school boards mutually corrupt the system and bankrupt our state. The school board provides contracts to the teacher’s union with a pool of money. How that money is dealt out to individual teachers is the union’s responsibility. Pensions are paid by the State, not by the local government. Pension contributions are pooled, and pension payouts are 80% of an average of the last two years of a teacher’s salary. The unions have devised a scheme where in the last 2 1/2 years of a teacher’s career, they will have massive step raises every six months. In this school district, teachers at the high end of the scale (based upon advanced degrees and seniority) might reach salaries around $70K, before they entered the magic near retirement age. During the last 2 1/2 years of their career, they receive five $10K step raises, increasing their final pay to 120K, and giving them a 2 year average of 100K. The 80% calculation of their average results in a pension payout of $80K. Since this is a State obligation the local government turns a blind eye to the scheme. In the event the school board wants to retire these super earner teachers early, to hire additional teachers, they bonus them the money they would have earned, and that amount is also used in the pension calculations. The pension contribution shortfall is dramatic. It is my understanding that this practice is common with many government employee unions.

    • #10
    • October 23, 2020, at 1:17 PM PDT
    • 7 likes
  11. Mark Camp Member

    Giulietta (View Comment):

    Mark Camp (View Comment):

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):

    Phil Turmel (View Comment):

    The value of the article to me was that it gave an inside look at a public sector union, and it revealed to us outsiders that they can

    * do good for the citizens (that is, improve education) and

    * act as a check on incompetence and abuses of power by public sector managers.

    We non-teachers have no more idea about the day-to-day problems and abuses of teaching than we who are not welders or police officers do in those domains. In our ignorance, our opinions are distorted by a few sweeping generalizations (union bad, union good) driven in part by this or that ideology.

    That said, these unions have great power to do evil. On the whole I believe that they do far more harm than good, and ought to be outlawed or better yet, constrained by free market choices: if a given school district’s union is behaving badly (e.g., conspiring with the administration to spread Marxist/Racist propaganda, as Guillietta showed that they are now in her old district, or demanding above-market compensation for their contractually specified labor) there should be no obstacles whatsoever to voters electing school boards that will fire the union.

    The best solution of all would be to privatize education, with the powers of government to interfere limited to what is absolutely necessary, according to local democratic values and local conditions, which may vary from state to state, county to county, and municipality to municipality.

    [EDIT: I neglected to mention the argument against permitting public sector unions that DonG mentions above: With compulsory government-school attendance, there is no one representing the voters’ interest in negotiations with unions. The union simply buys the support of politicians at whatever price they demand, recovering the costs by demanding higher wages from the dishonest pols, or virtually extorting the wages from the public by strikes.]

    How you can impose a check on the power of public unions at this point? At its best the union checked the behavior of school admin and rules of the larger school system which was important in a huge system like CPS. There is no accountability outside of the teachers who pay dues for the CTU. There seem to be elections to fill delegate positions TO the CTU, but not for the people who run the CTU and that should be a concern to stakeholders in the city like parents who are unhappy about remote learning and pay taxes to support a system that is hemorrhaging money.

    I don’t think voters can impose a check on their power except by eliminating their unaccountable monopoly position.

    • #11
    • October 23, 2020, at 2:27 PM PDT
    • Like
  12. Giulietta Coolidge
    Giulietta

    Nohaaj (View Comment):

    The issue I have the most trouble with is the pension plan, and how the unions and school boards mutually corrupt the system and bankrupt our state. The school board provides contracts to the teacher’s union with a pool of money. How that money is dealt out to individual teachers is the union’s responsibility. Pensions are paid by the State, not by the local government. Pension contributions are pooled, and pension payouts are 80% of an average of the last two years of a teacher’s salary. The unions have devised a scheme where in the last 2 1/2 years of a teacher’s career, they will have massive step raises every six months. In this school district, teachers at the high end of the scale (based upon advanced degrees and seniority) might reach salaries around $70K, before they entered the magic near retirement age. During the last 2 1/2 years of their career, they receive five $10K step raises, increasing their final pay to 120K, and giving them a 2 year average of 100K. The 80% calculation of their average results in a pension payout of $80K. Since this is a State obligation the local government turns a blind eye to the scheme. In the event the school board wants to retire these super earner teachers early, to hire additional teachers, they bonus them the money they would have earned, and that amount is also used in the pension calculations. The pension contribution shortfall is dramatic. It is my understanding that this practice is common with many government employee unions.

    The pensions are an enormous liability for of the public sector employees in Illinois. It’s a roiling mess. A policy website tells me the following: The average career (30 years of service) teacher who retired recently (within the last three years) receives a $71,000 pension and will collect over $2 million over the course of her retirement. 

    I haven’t looked at the pay scales for CPS in a little while (I have to see if I can still access it) but I believe there are similar jumps in Chicago to what you describe in Pittsburgh. I recall hearing that it was very profitable to”hang in there” during the last years before retirement because the salary was very good (certainly it wasn’t for the teaching conditions) but I do know that around January we would receive emails pushing early retirements. The benefit:”retire as young as 55 years old, receive up to 75% of their final average salary in pension benefits and have 3% compounded annual post-retirement increases regardless of inflation. That 3% permanent annual raise doubles the size of the first-year pension benefit after 25 years.”

    • #12
    • October 23, 2020, at 2:43 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  13. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. StephensJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    It is only 95% of the Unions that give the other 5% a bad name. 

    Anything, anything, that interferes with the rights of an employee to work for an employer is wrong. 

    If some group wants to create a certification process and employers like that, like Phil mentions, great. You don’t need the government to protect wage negotiations. 

    Also, it is only 95% of the employers who give the other 5% a bad name. 

    Everyone is evil, everyone is out to screw everyone else all the time. 

    • #13
    • October 23, 2020, at 4:10 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  14. Charlotte Member
    CharlotteJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Thanks for the informative post, @giuliettachicago.

    Did you ever find yourself wishing you could just sit down one-on-one with your boss (the principal?) and hash out your issues like two professional, civilized people?

    The idea of farming out my employment negotiations to a large organization gives me the heebie-jeebies.

    • #14
    • October 23, 2020, at 6:23 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  15. Giulietta Coolidge
    Giulietta

    Charlotte (View Comment):

    Thanks for the informative post, @giuliettachicago.

    Did you ever find yourself wishing you could just sit down one-on-one with your boss (the principal?) and hash out your issues like two professional, civilized people?

    The idea of farming out my employment negotiations to a large organization gives me the heebie-jeebies.

    I do think about that. And yet in every line of work there are honest brokers and dishonest ones. The honest ones can talk and have a reasonable conversation where even if it doesn’t go your way, you still respect them. The dishonest ones give you blowback afterwards and that’s when in teaching it felt better to have the union standing behind you to make sure that you wouldn’t lose your job for one of those conversations. It feels dramatic, doesn’t it?

    • #15
    • October 23, 2020, at 6:37 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  16. sawatdeeka Member
    sawatdeekaJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Thank you for this inside view of teachers’ unions!

    • #16
    • October 23, 2020, at 7:44 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  17. kedavis Member

    Giulietta (View Comment):

    Phil Turmel (View Comment):

    I’ve had a lot of exposure to industrial unions, of all stripes, including striking papermakers in my hometown. In spite of that (very negative) experience, I’ve had positive experiences. I’m most impressed with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, due to their dead-serious approach to apprentice training. I’m least impressed with the auto-maker unions. (And the union bailout in 2008 infuriated me, as it allowed those pathologies to persist.)

    What do you think makes the approach of the Electrical Workers different from school unions?

    That is a very interesting question. Teachers apprenticing with other teachers, more than just getting a degree in teaching etc, could be a big improvement.

    • #17
    • October 23, 2020, at 8:43 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  18. kedavis Member

    Giulietta (View Comment):

    DonG (skeptic) (View Comment):

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):

    While I would never voluntarily belong to one, I don’t have a major problem with Private sector unions.

    Public sector unions should be killed with fire.

    I feel the same. There was a time when private sector unions helped improve worker safety. However, unions are often financially and politically corrupt. These days, workers are best protected by a growing economy and a consumers that care about workers.

    Public sector unions should be outlawed as their is no good faith negotiator to represent tax payers and consumers don’t have a choice.

    I think the city and elected government is supposed to be the good faith negotiator but I think it’s fair to say that no one feels Lori Lightfoot represents the interests of taxpayers in these scenarios. And certainly as mentioned in another comment here, there is no real check on how the unions conduct themselves either though the Janus decision by SCOTUS might be a way that people can check out of union membership if they disprove of how it is run.

    Perhaps the single biggest problem with these public sector unions is that the most expensive bargaining usually ends up being about future benefits – especially pensions – that cost the current pols nothing during their terms of office. The chickens come home to roost later, sometimes much later, by which time the pols who set it up may also be getting a pension…

    • #18
    • October 23, 2020, at 8:45 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  19. Giulietta Coolidge
    Giulietta

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Giulietta (View Comment):

    DonG (skeptic) (View Comment):

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):

    While I would never voluntarily belong to one, I don’t have a major problem with Private sector unions.

    Public sector unions should be killed with fire.

    I feel the same. There was a time when private sector unions helped improve worker safety. However, unions are often financially and politically corrupt. These days, workers are best protected by a growing economy and a consumers that care about workers.

    Public sector unions should be outlawed as their is no good faith negotiator to represent tax payers and consumers don’t have a choice.

    I think the city and elected government is supposed to be the good faith negotiator but I think it’s fair to say that no one feels Lori Lightfoot represents the interests of taxpayers in these scenarios. And certainly as mentioned in another comment here, there is no real check on how the unions conduct themselves either though the Janus decision by SCOTUS might be a way that people can check out of union membership if they disprove of how it is run.

    Perhaps the single biggest problem with these public sector unions is that the most expensive bargaining usually ends up being about future benefits – especially pensions – that cost the current pols nothing during their terms of office. The chickens come home to roost later, sometimes much later, by which time the pols who set it up may also be getting a pension…

    The irony of this is that the huge increases in pay that the politicians like Lightfoot promise the union have enormous costs. To cover pay increases for the teachers (not to mention the other public sectors), property tax hikes will have to be on the table. That will hit lower and middle-class families hard and they will leave the city (they already are leaving) and school enrollment numbers will shrink even further. The union will claim that the city has become too expensive and they will demand cost of living raises for the next contract, ignoring the shrunken tax base- rinse and repeat. And no one in power calls them on it.

    • #19
    • October 23, 2020, at 9:28 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  20. Randy Webster Member

    Bryan G. Stephens, Trump Aveng… (View Comment):
    Everyone is evil, everyone is out to screw everyone else all the time. 

    If I felt like that, I wouldn’t bother to get out of bed in the morning.

    • #20
    • October 23, 2020, at 10:31 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  21. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. StephensJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    Bryan G. Stephens, Trump Aveng… (View Comment):
    Everyone is evil, everyone is out to screw everyone else all the time.

    If I felt like that, I wouldn’t bother to get out of bed in the morning.

    It is liberating. People are no damn good. Once you accept it, you can be pleased when folks do better on occasion. 

    • #21
    • October 24, 2020, at 5:59 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  22. Charlotte Member
    CharlotteJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Bryan G. Stephens, Trump Aveng… (View Comment):

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    Bryan G. Stephens, Trump Aveng… (View Comment):
    Everyone is evil, everyone is out to screw everyone else all the time.

    If I felt like that, I wouldn’t bother to get out of bed in the morning.

    It is liberating. People are no damn good. Once you accept it, you can be pleased when folks do better on occasion.

    Sounds like you and @fakejohnjanegalt need to get together and go bowling.

    • #22
    • October 24, 2020, at 9:13 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  23. Phil Turmel Coolidge

    Giulietta (View Comment):

    Phil Turmel (View Comment):

    I’ve had a lot of exposure to industrial unions, of all stripes, including striking papermakers in my hometown. In spite of that (very negative) experience, I’ve had positive experiences. I’m most impressed with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, due to their dead-serious approach to apprentice training. I’m least impressed with the auto-maker unions. (And the union bailout in 2008 infuriated me, as it allowed those pathologies to persist.)

    What do you think makes the approach of the Electrical Workers different from school unions?

    As others have pointed out, the IBEW has to compete in the private sector. In particular, they have to not drive their employers out of business. Public sector unions negotiate with a counterparty that is using Other People’s Money. Not good.

    • #23
    • October 24, 2020, at 9:24 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  24. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. StephensJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Phil Turmel (View Comment):

    Giulietta (View Comment):

    Phil Turmel (View Comment):

    I’ve had a lot of exposure to industrial unions, of all stripes, including striking papermakers in my hometown. In spite of that (very negative) experience, I’ve had positive experiences. I’m most impressed with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, due to their dead-serious approach to apprentice training. I’m least impressed with the auto-maker unions. (And the union bailout in 2008 infuriated me, as it allowed those pathologies to persist.)

    What do you think makes the approach of the Electrical Workers different from school unions?

    As others have pointed out, the IBEW has to compete in the private sector. In particular, they have to not drive their employers out of business. Public sector unions negotiate with a counterparty that is using Other People’s Money. Not good.

    And why they have so much power. And thenpass the cost down 20 years.

    • #24
    • October 24, 2020, at 9:27 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  25. EB Thatcher

    • #25
    • October 24, 2020, at 11:40 AM PDT
    • 10 likes
  26. Instugator Thatcher
    InstugatorJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I am curious, how much did you pay in union dues per paycheck?

    Do you think it was worth it, given your working conditions?

    Giulietta (View Comment):
    How you can impose a check on the power of public unions at this point?

    By taking advantage of Janus v. AFSCME to opt out of paying agency fees to unions, as well as working to enact right-to-work legislation.

    • #26
    • October 24, 2020, at 6:44 PM PDT
    • Like
  27. Giulietta Coolidge
    Giulietta

    Instugator (View Comment):

    I am curious, how much did you pay in union dues per paycheck?

    Do you think it was worth it, given your working conditions?

    Giulietta (View Comment):
    How you can impose a check on the power of public unions at this point?

    By taking advantage of Janus v. AFSCME to opt out of paying agency fees to unions, as well as working to enact right-to-work legislation.

    Union dues are based on one percent of the Lane 1, Step 6 salary schedule for 40 weeks plus AFT and IFT per capita assessments. Here are is the full salary scale with the lanes and steps. My salary was less than the $66K in the example but you get a rough idea.

    Was it worth it? The union was helpful in certain ways as I mention in my post. But I lost my job because CPS decided that my classes were too small (15-20 students) and the other French teacher had 14 more months on me so they kept her even though her evaluations and attendance records showed she was struggling. The union did nothing; it didn’t protest that the class sizes were actually ideal for teaching, or that my evaluations and attendance record were good.

    The school’s union rep did tell me that I had a right to another teacher’s job- a friend, incidentally- in the English Dept because I had seniority over him by one year. It felt morally shady to take a friend’s job especially when as an untenured teacher, I still could be fired easily the next year and he seemed to be getting on really well. I was told though that if I wanted his position, the union would back me in the fight against the principal so I suppose the dues would have come in handy there. Alienating admin seemed like a really bad idea and so I left and went to private school.

    The union rules for intervening in cases like mine are unclear. I was two years away from tenure with good ratings so I thought the union would have helped but the reaction from my colleagues was “that’s bad luck”. You hear a lot about how public schools have a hard time keeping teachers, but I’m skeptical because CPS cut me and the union let them. So I am not sure how to answer your question accurately about whether the dues were worth it- it’s just complicated any way you slice it.

    • #27
    • October 24, 2020, at 7:17 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  28. kedavis Member

    I guess one question might be, would you have taken the other class if that teacher hadn’t been a friend?

    • #28
    • October 24, 2020, at 7:28 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  29. Giulietta Coolidge
    Giulietta

    kedavis (View Comment):

    I guess one question might be, would you have taken the other class if that teacher hadn’t been a friend?

    It’s a good question. I might have, but I think I also felt the principal might have tried to cut me again the next year as payback for getting the union involved. She was a vindictive character.

    • #29
    • October 24, 2020, at 7:47 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  30. Jules PA Member

    Giulietta (View Comment):
    She was a vindictive character.

    Because the reality that admin change, and are also at the disposal of their own superiors, the cost of the association membership is well worth it. 

    A teacher has no protection from the fickle whims. It happened once to me, and pray I never need the association to support me again.

    I don’t vote with the nea or my state association, and in 35 years, never have. I toss their propaganda. I dont give them money beyond the membership. I do my work to benefit students, which is often thwarted by administrivia. 

    • #30
    • October 25, 2020, at 5:26 AM PDT
    • 4 likes