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Unions are a dynamic component of the American workforce. Many organizations and businesses contain and cooperate with unions to appease their employees and ensure fair work conditions and compensations, although, sometimes this appeasement can infringe on federal or state laws. There are ways to avoid litigation on the unions such as better visibility of their fiscal activity on a political level. There are benefits to joining a union through the bargaining process, hopefully in a win-win or distributive process for both the employee and employer (Cascio, 2010). Government workers now account for almost half of all union members (Bovard, 1998). In the public school system, teachers are employees of the local governing body whether it is the town or county (AFT, 2012). The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) was founded in 1916 as a labor union for American public K-12th grade teachers but now includes other professionals such as nurses and federal employees (AFT, 2012). There can be fundamental conflicts of interest or obstacles between government-employed teachers and tax-payer parents.
Teacher unions can make it very expensive and arduous to fire a sub-standard teacher. For example, in New York, it costs $317,000 to fire a single unionized teacher (Bovard, 1998). In Michigan, an investigation by the Detroit Free Press in 1992 uncovered that the school system took 7 years and over $100,000 of tax-payer money to fire a single unionized teacher (Bovard, 1998). Misappropriation of funds can legally impact the teacher’s union. In Washington state, voter’s decided in a referendum to halt unions from contributing to political parties with members’ due money, unless with a personal signed consent (Bovard, 1998). The teacher’s union circumvented this ruling by altering the name of a due-money funded project from ‘political’ to ‘community outreach’, and soon thereafter, almost $1 million from the teacher’s union went to Washington state’s political institution (Bovard, 1998). To avoid this fraudulent behavior, tax-payers need better visibility of the fiscal relationship between politics and unions.
This could minimize possible legal ramifications of union members vying to sue the union because of misdirection of membership money for political gain. There are benefits for public school teachers to join a union. From 1960 to 2007, growth extended to 70% of teachers as union members (“Teacher unions lose their mojo,” June). With this strength in numbers, came huge power from the union in dictating pay, school hours and staffing (“Teacher unions lose their mojo,” June). The unionization process for teachers is found on the AFT website. Membership is established on the local or state level through the supporting employer (AFT, 2012). Membership dues range from $40 to $70 annually (AFT, 2012). If there is not an AFT union in the organization, the teacher can request online for information on forming a union (AFT, 2012).
The AFT uses the collective bargaining process to their advantage. Unionized teachers make 40% more in wage and benefits compared to their non unionized counterpart (“Teacher unions lose their mojo,” June). However, this bargaining is more distributive than integrative (Cascio, 2010). The spending on public schools has risen by 140% from 1970 to 2009, yet the class size has fallen and overall test scores have declined (“Teacher unions lose their mojo,” June). Overall, unions can have negative and positive impacts on the organization. Both the union and management must work together to achieve fair agreements, in which each party is satisfied. This requires both parties to keep current on laws and guarantee that unionized employees are treated equally with non-unionized counterparts.
AFT. (2012, Fall). American Federation of Teachers. Retrieved from http://www.aft.org Bovard, J. (1998, September). Good enough for government work? «American Spectator, 31»(9), p34-39, p82-84. Cascio, W. F. (2010). Managing Human Resources. Productivity, Quality of Work Life, Profits (8th ed.). New York City, NY: McGraw-Hill. Teacher unions loose their mojo. (June 6, 2012). Investor’s Business Daily, pA12(na), , 1 page.