Monday, November 14, 2011

Educators and Public Employees Playing Hardball

“I think it’s important to be as involved in politics as the politicians have been involved in education.”
Cathy Monteiro - Classroom Teacher - Westerville, OH

The above quote is from an Ohio Education Association member in the context of the huge struggle the working people of that state have weathered. Of course, you've heard that the anti-union ballot question was crushed by a 22 % margin. This is the first mandate on the new anti-unionism in which an open vote was held.

(The Delaware State Education Association was able to share in some of Ohio's glory. We have the luxury of a Governor who respects union rights, and that allowed us to loan staff and governance people to the Ohio effort in the last few days before the election. President Frederika Jenner, Vice-President Mike Hoffman, UniServ Jocelynne Jones, Wendy Cannon, and Toby Paone all aided the OEA political activity.)

You don't need to be a weatherman to see which way the wind is blowing. Educators and other public employees are fighting back against political demagoguery that blames them for everything from struggling schools to the struggling economy.

In Wisconsin, several Republican senators who supported the abrogation of union rights faced recall elections. There are now two less of those senators in the legislature. Governor Walker is facing the same scenario as the campaign for signatures to place his recall on the ballot is moving forward.

While unions across the country flex their political muscle, we should not forget the example of the Alabama Education Association which demonstrated union power in another way. The Alabama Education Association has been politically powerful for many years, always beating the odds in the conservative environment of the deep South. However, like most of the nation, this educators' organization lost their political grip in the 2010 election.

The enemies of AEA went after them hard by denying members the right of paycheck dues deduction. The response of the Alabama Education Association should be a lesson to us all. AEA recognized that governments give unions a framework in which to function, but they do not make unions, therefore they should not be able to break unions.

What makes unions is the desire of people to organize and collectively act in the welfare of the whole group. A government can make that inconvenient when they take away dues deduction, but that should not break a union. AEA went out and signed their members up for electronic fund transfers (automatic bank draws) to pay their union dues. Today, an overwhelming majority of educators continue to be in AEA as dues paying members despite the best efforts of the Alabama legislature to bust the union.


  1. Just so I am clear, you are saying that because Jack Markell respects union rights, the DSEA felt comfortable enough to fly out to Ohio?

    What if he didn't respect your rights, would you have gone anyway? Weren't deeply held principles at play here?

  2. Just rant if you want. I'm more or less shooting for a think tank effect here. Everyones input helps, even more so if you have kids in the public education system or are involved in the public education system yourself. Thank you.Oh yes, if anyone knows anything about the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, please do tell.

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