I've never had much use for my union until lately. I've spent the better part of my career being frustrated that I had to pay dues and be part of a union who's political actions offend me. Why is my union telling people to vote no on Prop. 8 so that gays and lesbians can legally marry? Does this affect education? Why are my union dues being used in such a non educational way in a political campaign in which I stand firmly on the opposite side? This happens ALL the time and I am constantly kicking the dog about the political positions of my union leaders.
I resent that I am unable to negotiate my own salary. As a math teacher who has successfully taught at the highest high school level, (Ok, I never taught Calculus BC, but I've taught AB) I think I could do a pretty good job advocating for myself in salary negotiations. I resent that I make the same amount that lesser teachers make. I resent that excellence is not rewarded.
And lastly, I never thought I needed a union to "protect" me. I'm pretty good at what I do and I'm confident that my work speaks for itself. My principals have all been happy with my performance in the classroom and I never thought I needed tenure to help me keep a job. As a matter of fact, I've walked away from tenured positions 3 times.
But now I get it. I now work for a district governing board that would fire me tomorrow and replace me with a new teacher to save $30,000 a year. There is no question in my mind that they assume that "Teachers are teachers. How much difference can there be?"
Thank god for my union. My union won't allow them to fire me and replace me with a cheaper model. I now understand that unions aren't there to protect the bad teachers as often happens. The union is there to protect the best teachers.
We absolutely need to stop protecting bad teachers. Cut 'em loose. Makes the whole profession look bad when we keep lazy or crappy teachers in the classroom. But I sure am glad I'm with a union now.
If it weren't for my union, districts would operate like a professional baseball team. In good financial times, they would seek out the best talent and pay them to teach in their schools. But in bad financial times, they would cut them all loose and bring up the minor leaguers to play.
I work for some pretty unpredictable people. Today I'm awfully glad not be trying to reason with them alone.