The Tripod of Teacher Unionism

I recently posted this comment in a discussion Facebook, and thought it would be useful to post and preserve here as well (with slight edits). The discussion concerned the breadth of “non-education” issues and positions taken up by union delegates at the 2018 NEA Representative Assembly. 

photo: Andres Nieto Porras, via Wikimedia Commons

In my union “upbringing” I was introduced to the idea of a tripod of union work: labor, profession, and social justice. Labor is the bread-and-butter of union work – contracts, salary, benefits, working conditions. Professional work is our interest in better teaching and learning. If we are not working collaboratively to improve teaching and learning, we are not true professionals and have less justification for professional salaries and benefits. Social justice concerns the wellbeing of our students’ families, our own families, our communities. When blamed for problems beyond our control, teachers and unions are quick to point out that we alone cannot close achievement gaps that result from social inequities. Having then acknowledged the social forces that present inequitable obstacles for our students, how could we credibly decline to use our collective voice and power in the work of dismantling those obstacles?

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