The past year has brought a renewed focus on teachers unions. This was the year that saw a wave of state-wide teacher strikes, a wave that continues right now in Washington state. It was also the year that brought the Janus decision which threatens to extend the effects of Right-To-Work to states that have not yet seen that law come to their state capital. And conservative groups have been poised to launch a campaign of encouraging teachers and other public employees to quit their unions, even as unions have hunkered down to work at holding onto members.
It seems like a good time to ask the question, why do teachers join the union at all?
For some people, the teachers union is a nest of crazy leftists, people who don’t care about students but are just in the education biz for the money. But union members represent a far more complex group. Remember, one in five AFT members and one in three NEA members voted for Donald Trump. Union leadership itself, when trying to exercise some political clout, has reason to promote the idea that the unions are a monolithic whole, a unified army ready to be unleashed. But that’s not true for all issues. Many of the same criticisms lobbed from outside the unions are also leveled from inside it.
So what unifies teacher union members? It’s this statement: