Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

Union Alternatives

Over the last couple of weeks we’ve seen a couple of stories pop up that suggest some teachers are simply tired of their union’s anti-reform stances. First came news that a backer of education reform was putting up some money to help fund a “cheaper, non-political alternative to teacher unions” in Florida. Reports the Florida Times-Union:

The Orange Park-based educators network has been around since 1995 but has only about 2,000 members statewide. …

But Tim Farmer, who spent the last two years as a teacher with Teach For America at Eugene Butler Middle School, is ramping up the network’s recruitment efforts here.

Farmer, a former member of the union, said Duval Teachers United is “completely out of touch” with what teachers want and the services it offers are “overpriced.” The network, Farmer said, isn’t political and membership costs $180 a year compared with $680 for the union.

“I felt like it was time that teachers were given a choice,” he said.

Today, the Wall Street Journal notes that more and more New York City teachers are joining a group called Educators 4 Excellence. Though they explicitly deny being any sort of competition to the local American Federation of Teachers affiliate, the new group is staking out positions that put them in diametric opposition to the union:

Ms. Morris stresses that her group is “not anti-union, nor are we an alternative” to the UFT. Instead, the group is made up of “educators committed to amplifying authentic teacher voices that are not yet being heard in order to improve the education system to benefit our students.”

Of particular concern is the practice of laying off teachers based on how many years they’ve worked in the schools. That “provides a safety net to be complacent,” said Margie Crousillat, a member of Ms. Morris’s group who is a kindergarten teacher in the Bronx in her seventh year of teaching. “Some veteran teachers have been teaching 25 years and they are incredible. But some aren’t. I don’t think age or experience should dictate whether you’re safe in your job.”

About the UFT, Ms. Crousillat added: “Their priorities are not my priorities.”

We at Labor Pains applaud these alternative efforts. It just goes to show something we’ve said for a long time: Teachers aren’t the problem – union bosses are. Hopefully these new groups can pressure the old guard into being more accepting of reform and less political in the future.

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