Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

Dissent in Baltimore

The interests of teachers unions and actual teachers don’t always overlap. The Baltimore Teachers Union, for example, is calling for the ouster of new superintendent Andres Alonso for his proposal to allow principals to require teachers to plan collaboratively for 45 minutes a week. One outraged teacher wrote The Baltimore Sun a letter expressing her profound disagreement with a union that does not speak for her:

I am in my 12th year teaching in Baltimore’s public schools, and I was outraged by the headline “Teachers call for ouster of Alonso” (Oct. 10). I think “Teachers union leaders call for ouster” would have been a more apt headline.

While I appreciate the fact that I have always been paid on time and have health insurance, the philosophy of the Baltimore Teachers Union does not reflect my educational philosophy or that of my teaching teams over the past 12 years.

We have always taken time to plan as a team for instruction, professional development, even the way our school’s lunchtime is conducted.

Why? Because students and staff benefit immeasurably from having a set of adults who understand students’ strengths and needs, and who understand each other’s thinking about teaching and learning.

When BTU elections were held last year, many teachers supported a different slate of candidates from those who won. And, for me, the next union election cannot come soon enough.

I support schools CEO Andres Alonso and am grateful that he is willing to take on this enormous challenge.

Another teacher, blogging at Epiphany in Baltimore and a self-described “huge pro-union type of guy,” agrees with the BTU’s opposition to the proposal, but he does not support the union’s call for the removal of new superintendent Alonso. The Baltimore teacher is also “frustrated and embarassed by the ‘work to rule’ tactic” ordered by the union, saying the tactic is “ineffective and hurts kids.”

At the BTU’s rally on Tuesday, only 150 people showed up (in a district with over 12,000 teachers and staff), and as the Sun reported, many of them were not teachers. Just who is the Baltimore Teachers Union speaking for?

Categories: Teachers Unions