Foundations of Education and Instructional Assessment/School Organization/Unions

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Should I Join a Teachers Union? What about a professional organization?
By: Kayla Bise

Learning Targets

  • Readers should understand the benefits and disadvantages of Teachers Unions
  • Readers should understand how the Unions effect teachers
  • Readers should be able to decide if they would like to join a union once they begin their career


Throughout time unions have worked to provide more for their employees. In 1857 the National Education Association; also known as the NEA; was formed by one hundred educators (NEA). The NEA became an advocate for children who were not learning to read and write. Over the course of one hundred and fifty years the NEA has become the largest teaching union (NEA). Currently there are over 3.2 million members across the United States (NEA). While the NEA is the largest teaching union the American Federation of Teachers is the second largest teaching union. The AFT was founded in 1916 to represent the economic, social and professional interests of classroom teachers (AFT). The American Federation of Teachers currently has 1.4 million members that belong to three thousand local affiliates nationwide and forty-three state affiliates (ATF). Virginia does not belong to the ATF as a state affiliate but there is a local affiliate in Fairfax County (ATF). Although teachers are not required to join the NEA or ATF many do to protect their selves in many aspects. These unions often provide employment security while protecting teacher’s rights with working conditions, teacher pay and benefits and other contract provisions. This raises the question to up and coming teachers as to whether they should join a teachers union.

"Today unions represent 67 percent of the nation's 3 million active public elementary and secondary school teachers" Randall W. Eberts

Benefits of Joining a Union

There are many benefits of joining a teachers union. When a teacher joins a union they are granted many more benefits then teachers that do not join a union. The benefits that teachers are most concerned with are their pay and benefits, working conditions, employment security. A study found that teachers who are members of the union earned between five and twelve percent more than those who did not join a union (Eberts, 2007). These teachers also had more benefits and this may have increased the quality of education (Eberts, 2007). Teachers are often concerned about their working conditions such as class size, time for preparation and other activities away from students (Eberts, 2007). Studies found that that the student-teacher rations were seven to twelve percent lower for union teachers than for nonunion teachers (Eberts, 2007). The study also found that union teachers were allowed more time in class preparation and administrative duties (Eberts, 2007). Without the union teachers would not be allowed this planning time which is necessary for their classroom to run smoothly. While the unions protect a teachers pay and benefits and working conditions it also protects their employment security. Many teachers are granted tenure after teacher for a few years (Eberts, 2007). Tenure protects teachers from dismissal except for specific causes, which are not related to performance (Eberts, 2007). As you can see there are many benefits to joining the union that will protect you as a teacher.

Disadvantages of Joining a Union

While there are many benefits of joining a union there are also many disadvantages. Some teachers do not want to join the union because they are often very political and they may not agree with what the union stands for. Randall W. Eberts stated, “Teachers were not always anxious to be part of organized labor” (Eberts, 2007). While the unions often helped with the financial aspects of being a teacher they had many views and were often not agreed by the teachers (Eberts, 2007). There are also some districts that say that a teacher must be part of a union. Many people are forced to go along with the views of the largest unions like the NEA and AFT because there are no counter propaganda organizations (Moore, 1996). A disadvantage of joining the union is the cost. The average annual dues for the National Education Association is between four and six hundred dollars (Moore, 1996). This raises seven hundred and eighty five million dollars in revenue for the NEA (Moore, 1996). While the union may do a great job at protecting teachers pay, working conditions and their employment security it also protects bad teachers. An example of this is a high school teacher that was fired for producing and appearing in an x-rated video and asking students to be involved (Moore, 1996). The union defended this teacher claiming that he was working to augment his income (Moore, 1996). Teachers like this should not be protected under the union. These disadvantages may outweigh the benefits of joining a union.


There are many benefits and disadvantages of joining a teachers union. While some teachers want to protect their pay and benefits, working conditions, and employment security others view the unions as if it was forced upon them. Some may feel that unions are too political for them to join whither it is for a religious reason or ethical view of the NEA. Some may believe that joining the union is costly while others see that there are benefits in joining the unions that may increase their pay. As future teachers we will have to decide whither we will join the 3.2 million teachers across the United States in the NEA. One must weigh out their views of the unions and decide if joining will be an advantage or disadvantage for their career as a teacher.


American Federation of Teachers. Retrieved Febrauary, 15, 2009 from Eberts, Randall W. (Spring, 2007). Teachers Unions and Student Performance: Help or Hindrance? The Future of Children, Vol. 17. Retrieved February 15, 2009 from Moore, Randy. (May, 1996) Teachers Unions. The American Biology Teacher, Vol. 58. Rerieved February 15, 2009 from http://www. National Education Asscaition. Retrieved February 15, 2009 from


1. Who is the largest Teaching Union in the United States A. AFT B. CBS C. NEA D. NNEA

2. How many members does the largest Teaching Union in the United States have? A. 3.8 Million B. 1.4 Million C. 7.2 Million D. 3.2 Million

3. True or False: The average teacher's wages will increase if they join a union.

4. One reason many teachers do not join unions is: A. They will have a pay increase B. Religious and Political Views C. To fight for better cafeteria food D. There is not a teachers union

Answer Key 1. C 2. D 3. True 4. B

Kbise001 (talk) 19:15, 26 February 2009 (UTC)