SLLBOCES Teachers' Association
Why Are We Asking for You to Re-sign Up of the Union
Some of you may not be aware that there is a case in front of the US Supreme court named Janus v. AFSCME. The core of this case surrounds the idea of union membership and if a person can choose to not join or pay for union membership despite receiving the benefits of union membership. The case was initiated by Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner with the purpose of attacking public unions across the country and create a “Right to Work” environment even in those states that are pro union.
The legal advice that we are receiving from NYSUT is to prepare for a loss in the Supreme Court given the current court’s makeup. While it is difficult to predict what the loss will truly mean until the decision is published, the union has decided that the best approach for us is to be proactive. We are predicting that we will need to prove that we still have member support to remain as a certified representative of our members. We decided that the best way to prove that we have the support of the employees and remain a viable union is to go through this re-carding process.
What is at Risk
One of the biggest things that we risk losing by this decision is the ability to collectively bargain. New York and Massachusetts are two of the strongest union states in the nation, and not by coincidence number one and two in the country for teacher pay. You may have noticed in the news that there was a statewide teacher strike in West Virginia, and Oklahoma and Arizona are planning strikes. All of these states do not have collective bargaining and rely on the goodwill of the districts and state legislature for raises. In West Virginia it was reported that teacher pay was so low that many full time teacher’s families met the criteria for food stamps.
One of the little known risks to all public unions is that we have to maintain a certain level of membership to be recognized officially by our employers. If our membership falls below that level, our contract becomes null and void. In Wisconsin where this has happened, contracts become a single page memo that provides the teacher’s salary and health care cost. Every other job related issue is regulated by a set of policies that is decided on by the school board and administration without the input of the staff. As you can see, there is a lot to lose in a “Right to Work” environment.
Benefits of Union Membership
There are also many hidden benefits to union membership beyond the obvious one that everyone thinks of, protection. NYSUT has legal experts working on state and federal level cases to protect our overall profession. They have education and policy experts reviewing new and proposed state laws to make sure they truly benefit the children we work with, as well as make sure that teaching remains a profession that is made up of high quality individuals. NYSUT uses our numbers to negotiate a variety of low cost financial, educational, recreational and health opportunities.
From left to right it is Lee, Mike O'Neil, John, and Lisa.