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The Role of Teacher Unions

A Compilation of Articles from Rethinking Schools

Rethinking Schools Online presents a special collection of articles on one of the most critical issues facing public education today: the role of teacher unions.

This collection includes articles from past issues of Rethinking Schools as well as letters received in response to those articles. The listings provide a link to the online version when available. (If the article is not online, the link will take you to our Order Page, where you can buy paper copies of the back issue the article appeared in using our secure order form.)

Also...

Be sure to check out the RS book, Transforming Teacher Unions, a 144-page anthology that looks at exemplary practices of teacher unions from the local to the national level. The 25 articles weave together issues of teacher unionism, classroom reform, working with local communities, and social justice. (See the complete Table of Contents.)

Also see The New Teacher Book, a handbook ideally suited for new teachers, perhaps the only book for new teachers that addresses important issues of race, class, testing, and teacher unions. Teacher unions and school districts have found The New Teacher Book especially useful for new teacher orientation and inservices. For more info click the title.

Listings (updated 11-14-11)

General Background on Social Justice Unionism

Survival and Justice: Rethinking Teacher Union Strategy (PDF)by Bob Peterson

Rethinking Teacher Unions: A lot has changed in the 20 years since Rethinking Schools was born, by Bob Peterson. Teacher union activist and Rethinking Schools editor Bob Peterson looks at the past two decades of teacher unionism. (Vol. 20, #3, Spring 2006)

What Will Be The Future of Teacher Unionism? by Bob Peterson A review of United Mind Workers: Unions and Teaching in the Knowledge Society by Charles Taylor Kerchner, Julia E. Koppich, and Joseph G. Weeres, and thoughts about the evolving role of teacher unions. (Vol. 12, #4, Summer 1998)

Social Justice Unionism: A Working Draft -- A Call to Education Unionists by the National Coalition of Education Activists Leading education activists spell out the key components of social justice unionism for teachers. (Vol. 9 #1, Fall 1994)

Which Side Are You On? A Look at Teacher's Unions by Bob Peterson How the historic dual nature of many unions -- on the one hand protecting the needs of poor and working people, and on the other undercutting the interests of some of those very people -- manifests itself in many teacher unions, and why democratic unionists must fight to overcome it. (Vol. 8, #1, Fall 1993)

Letters about "Which Side Are You On?" Readers respond.

Confronting Racism, Promoting Respect by Tom McKenna A program developed by a Canadian teachers union takes on racism, giving students new ways to confront their beliefs and the racial discord in their communities. (Vol. 13, #4, Summer 1999)

The Role of Education Unions in Advancing Public Education keynote speech by Bob Peterson to the Australian Education Union, January 15, 2005 (abridged version from AEU professional journal)

 

International Teacher Unionism

Teachers in Oaxaca Face Repression and Violence, by David Bacon. As protests against working conditions continue, the Mexican government responds with brutality (Vol 21, #2 Winter 2006/07)

Review of video Granito de arena by Lois Weiner. A film on Mexican teachers presents an activist, hopeful vision of unionism. (Vol. 21, #1, Fall, 2006)

We Are the World, by Mary Compton A call for solidarity among teachers around the world to combat forces of globalization and privatization (Vol. 19 #3, Spring 2005)

Australia Battles Privatization -- An interview with Angelo Gavrielatos, by Barbara Miner. An interview with Angelo Gavrielatos, deputy president of the Australian Education Union. Gavrielatos was recently in the United States to meet with union leaders. Barbara Miner of Rethinking Schools interviewed him on conservative education policies in Australia. They explored the issue of growing government funding for private schools. (Vol. 21 #2 Winter 2006/07 )

Australia New South Wales Teachers Federation (NSWTF) statement on the Iraq war. The NSWTF decision was adopted at that State Council which consists about 300 delegates on Saturday Feb 15, 2003

Australian Education Union statement adopted at the Federal conference of AEU January 17, 2003

 

Special Tribute to Union Leader Tom Mooney (1954 - 2006)

Tom Mooney - A Teacher First by Bill Bigelow (Vol. 21, #3, Spring 2007)

Ohio’s Children Lose a Labor Leader by Michael Charney who recalls Tom Mooney as "a champion who combined unionism with a passion for public education and the inherent worth of all children." (Vol. 21, #3, Spring 2007)

Union Power for Quality Schools by Mark Simon (Vol. 21, #3, Spring 2007)

An interview with Tom Mooney (Vol. 20, #2, Winter 2005/06)

 

Professional Unionism

Teacher Quality: Cincinnati's Teacher Union Tackles Quality by Barbara Miner. Despite complexities and shortcomings, the district's teacher quality initiatives are making a difference. (Vol. 20, #2, Winter 2005/06)

Teachers as Learners: How Peer Mentoring Can Improve Teaching Two teachers describe how evaluations by their fellow teachers gave them a valuable new perspective on their teaching practice. (Vol. 12#4, Summer 1998)

The Hows and Whys of Peer Mentoring by Marc Osten and Eric Gidseg. Practical nuts-and-bolts information on how the authors structured and maintained a peer mentoring program in their school. (Vol. 12 #4, Summer 1998)

Teachers Evaluating Teachers By Barbara Miner An earlier look at peer evaluation, the concerns raised about it by some educators and the praises sung by others. (Vol. 6, #3, Spring 1992)

 

Historical Background

What Happened to the Merger? By Ann Bastian A look at the NEA-AFT merger proposed this summer, why it didn't happen, and where we go from here. (Vol. 13, #1, Fall 1998)

NEA-AFT Unity: History in the Making A Rethinking Schools Editorial This Rethinking Schools editorial, written before the NEA and AFT voted not to merge, lays out some of the opportunities and challenges facing teachers and unions. (Vol. 12#4, Summer 1998)

The New NEA: Reinventing Teacher Unions for a New Era By Bob Chase Excerpts from a speech made by Chase, shortly after assuming leadership of the National Education Association, in which he called for teacher unions to shift their priorities and take more responsibility for the quality of teachers and learning environments. (Vol. 11 #4, Summer 1997)

The New Vision of Teacher Unionism By Bob Peterson Coverage of the controversy over Chase's remarks: Some Wisconsin teacher union leaders feared he was playing into the hands of anti-union forces. Also some thoughts on the evolving "social justice" vision of teachers as union members. (Vol. 11 #4, Summer 1997)

Letters about "The New Vision of Teacher Unionism" Readers respond to the above article.

Chase is Attacked Letters from two Wisconsin teacher union leaders criticizing Bob Chase's remarks. (Vol. 11 #4, Summer 1997)

Chase Responds Bob Chase responds to his critics. (Vol. 11 #4, Summer 1997)

 

Useful Links

USA links

American Federation of Teachers

National Education Association

TURN (Teacher Union Reform Network) is a union-led effort to restructure the nation's teachers' unions to promote reforms that will ultimately lead to better learning and higher achievement for America's children.

International Links

British Colombia Teachers Federation, a progressive teacher union that has a long history of militant trade unionism and social justice activism.

Education International, the federation of organizations representing over 30 million teachers and other education workers, through 384 member organizations in 169 countries and territories. As the Global Union representing education workers worldwide, Education International unifies all teachers and education workers. Be it a remote village or a cosmopolitan city, Education International promotes the rights of every teacher wherever they are, and the rights of every student they educate. Education International is the voice of education workers worldwide.

The New South Wales Teachers Federation has a long history of militancy and advocacy for social justice.

If you have another site to suggest to add to these links, please contact Bob Peterson at repmilw@aol.com