Letter

Unions Must Go Beyond Advocacy

Article Tools
  • PrintPrinter-Friendly
  • EmailEmail Article
  • ReprintReprints
  • CommentsComments

To the Editor:

In general, I agree with Paul Reville in his recent Commentary that unions have the responsibility to be involved at a level beyond member advocacy ("Teachers' Unions Must Decide Their Future," July 26, 2018). As a 37-year employee of teachers' unions and a retired executive director of the Ohio Education Association, I believe I can also speak directly to Reville's concerns.

Teachers' union leaders must find a way to balance their member advocacy obligations with their professional obligation to have a voice in key decisions about public education. Union leaders can and often will accept broader strategic leadership roles—even to the extent of conceptualizing and leading creative school reform efforts—but no one should expect that reform to occur at the expense of their responsibilities to members.

Union leaders have a sequence of responsibilities. In that sequence, advocacy and protection of members are of highest priority, but close behind are the effectiveness of their members' work and the general public's respect for public education. The ultimate measure of union effectiveness is whether its members feel effective, satisfied, respected, and recognized in their work each day. Consequently, most progressive unions prioritize, in about this order: member protection, recognition, contribution and effectiveness, and daily satisfaction in their work. If teachers' unions put all their emphasis on protecting members and neglect their professional role of representing the interests of the public education industry, they are providing their members less representation than they deserve.

Robert Barkley Jr.
Retired Executive Director
Ohio Education Association
Worthington, OH

Vol. 38, Issue 03, Page 35

Published in Print: September 5, 2018, as Unions Must Go Beyond Advocacy
Related Stories
Notice: We recently upgraded our comments. (Learn more here.) If you are logged in as a subscriber or registered user and already have a Display Name on edweek.org, you can post comments. If you do not already have a Display Name, please create one here.
Ground Rules for Posting
We encourage lively debate, but please be respectful of others. Profanity and personal attacks are prohibited. By commenting, you are agreeing to abide by our user agreement.
All comments are public.

Back to Top Back to Top

Most Popular Stories

Viewed

Emailed

Recommended

Commented