Current Weather
The Spy FM

Teachers Unions Mobilize In A Fight For Their Lives

Filed by KOSU News in US News.
November 12, 2011

This week, Ohio voters soundly rejected Gov. John Kasich’s plan to scale back collective bargaining rights for public employees. The vote was a big victory for labor; in particular, it showed how important the nation’s teachers unions have become beyond the classroom. Teachers groups are mobilizing like never before — because they face threats to their very existence.

Teachers unions joined a coalition of workers to produce the ads that helped defeat Issue 2 in Ohio. “How dare those politicians and lobbyists and special interest insiders attack the people who teach our children for a living?” the ads said.

Labor spent millions on the referendum, which overturned restrictions on collective bargaining. According to Kim Anderson of the National Education Association, the teachers group contributed the lion’s share. “More than $10 million,” she says.

The NEA says it’s the biggest labor union in 48 states, with more than 3 million members nationwide. Those numbers help build a big war chest, and, Anderson says, it also means the NEA could contribute lots of foot soldiers to the Ohio fight.

“Folks from at least 20 state affiliates that went into Ohio on their own volition because they wanted to help,” she says.

They’re coming because these collective bargaining fights are a threat to some unions’ ability to exist.

The issue has become more urgent since Wisconsin public workers lost a fight over collective bargaining rights earlier this year. As a result, some locals lost the ability to collect dues automatically from paychecks. Now, hundreds of the state’s teacher locals must hold elections to say whether they want the union to represent them.

That’s why Tuesday’s results in Ohio were important. So was a small but important victory in Michigan. There, the Michigan Education Association mounted a successful recall campaign against a state representative who symbolized the Republican effort to cut spending and limit union power.

“They spent more time vilifying unions and attacking the middle class of this state than they have putting people back to work,” MEA spokesman Doug Pratt says.

“That’s not what they were sent to Lansing to do, and voters are going to hold them accountable for that.”

Former state Rep. Paul Scott, the victim of the recall, says he expected a response from labor. But he was surprised when the union focused its organizing efforts on a recall.

“The most entrenched and well-financed government employee union in any state is going to be the teachers union,” Scott says. “They just immediately went toward my community and started protests.”

The union targeted other lawmakers for recall, but those efforts failed. Displays of union power just give new ammunition to the growing number of anti-union groups and websites, like TeachersUnionExposed.com. Justin Wilson says the website tries to uncover how labor protects ineffective teachers from being fired.

The mission, he says, is “to actually get a hold of proceedings where teachers have been disciplined; to sort of get to the bottom of how many teachers in this country are terminated, working through their onerous collective bargaining agreements that make it nearly impossible.”

This summer the National Education Association increased dues by $10. Some of that money will be directed at preserving bargaining rights. In Wisconsin, teachers are also pushing for their own recall effort against Gov. Scott Walker. These are all expensive battles, but for teachers unions, they are a matter of life and death. [Copyright 2011 National Public Radio]

Leave a Reply

9PM to 5AM The Spy

The Spy

An eclectic mix of the Spy's library of more than 10,000 songs curated by Ferris O'Brien.

Listen Live Now!

5AM to 9AM Morning Edition

Morning Edition

For more than two decades, NPR's Morning Edition has prepared listeners for the day ahead with two hours of up-to-the-minute news, background analysis, commentary, and coverage of arts and sports.

View the program guide!

9AM to 10AM The Takeaway

The Takeaway

A fresh alternative in morning news, "The Takeaway" provides a breadth and depth of world, national and regional news coverage that is unprecedented in public media.

View the program guide!

Upcoming Events in your area (Submit your event today!)

Streaming audio and podcasts

Stream KOSU on your smartphone

Phone Streaming

SmartPhone listening options on this page are intended for many iPhones, Blackberries, etc. with low-cost software applications available to listen to our full-time web streams, both News on KOSU-1 and Classical on KOSU-2.

Learn more about our complete range of streaming services

We're perfecting the patient experience - Stillwater Medical Center