Being part of a union does imply some level of sacrifice. You no longer can look at things through the lens of what is best for me. This is readily apparent at the local level. You cannot go into any negotiations simply asking for things which benefit one particular group without also considering how it affects the collective. There is only so much of the pie to go around, and it is a very delicate balance. Quite often we end up with an agreement that everyone one can live with, but no one is exactly overjoyed with. Compromise is necessary when we represent the group.
This concept translates to the state and national levels as well. It is unrealistic to think that labor organizations as large as OEA and NEA will operate and promote ideologies that align 100% with all of its members. Nothing stands out to me more than the last presidential campaign and the endorsement of political candidates. The fact is, OEA and NEA have a powerful influence on the political landscape in our state and in our country, and this influence must be utilized to promote public education. That being said, I have to admit that I have not always agreed with the candidates that our associations have endorsed. I haven’t always agreed with the items in my local contract or maybe with the organizational decisions and procedures in the association.
But I also take stock of everything my association does for me at the local, state, and national level. I look at my entire contract and recognize all of the hard-fought victories that protect my working conditions. I look at all of the ways the state association supports my local through professional development, trainings, legal guidance and negotiating. OEA also has the resources to lobby legislators, on behalf of educators, that far exceeds anything an individual can accomplish. I acknowledge the influence that NEA wields to better public education on issues like NCLB, ESSA, testing, funding, and on so many other issues that directly impact our students.
The power of our organization is the numbers behind the voice, and this is true at the local, state, and national levels. One person yelling in First Energy Stadium can barely be heard on the field. But make that 80,000 collective voices trying to drown out the Steelers, and it becomes easy to understand Collective Power.
Strong, responsible unions are essential to industrial fair play. Without them the labor bargain is wholly one-sided. The parties to the labor contract must be nearly equal in strength if justice is to be worked out, and this means that the workers must be organized and that their organizations must be recognized by employers as a condition precedent to industrial peace.—Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis
I cannot fathom what education would look like in this country without our association. I listen to my local administration, to former Governor Kasich, and to our current Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, and it makes me understand how the balance we have achieved is so vital. You do lose some individual choice when you join the association. Being part of our union does imply some degree of sacrifice, but what you gain is immeasurable!
United we are stronger,
Published in our Spring Issue 2019 of News & Views.