Sunday, November 12, 2006

Asked, Then Answered

This came from Mark, in the comments section to my post on the WEA Union Dues Lawsuit. I was going respond in the comments section, but it got long so I thought I’d make it its own post.

Is it a good thing or a bad thing that there is now an alternative to unions in the State of Washington, in the form of the Northwest Professional Educators. I have no affiliation with them. You say they are "arch conservative," but I know of quite a few teachers who are members who are huge supporters of public education but who do not support the unions.

What is your beef with the Northwest Professional Educators, if any?

To be fair, I said that Human Events Online was arch-conservative, not the NWPE.

As to whether it's a good thing or a bad thing that NWPE exists, overwhelmingly and decisively I'll tell you it's a good thing. There's absolutely nothing wrong with having options available, and for those who feel that the WEA isn’t for them I wish them well.

That said, here are some of the problems that I have with the NWPE:

  • Who are they? If you look around their website you can’t find a single name. Who is their president? Who works with the schools? If I needed legal services, whom would I talk to? I know what the counter-argument here is, “We need to maintain our privacy to keep from being bullied by rabid unionists!”, and that’s fine. But if you have the courage of your beliefs, why not stand up for them?

  • I think that some of the viewpoints the NEA takes are asinine, too, but painting the locals and the WEA with the same brush because you don’t like what goes on at the NEA Rep Assembly is troubling. As evidence, I give you statements like this:

    While many employees support their local union, they may desire to opt out of the WEA and NEA because of the unions’ support of political and social issues that the educator opposes. See Grading the NEA: The Troubling Values of a Union Giant.

    If you question the values of the WEA, then point that out. Using the parent organization to slam the state isn't intellectually honest.

  • It gets worse when you follow the link from the NWPE over to I Choose Charity, which explains to dissenters how to opt out of the union. Here the big issues are abortion (which isn't a WEA issue), gay rights (which is an issue for everyone), and school choice. One wonders: if you want to be an agency fee payer because of the WEA's stance on vouchers, what in the world are you doing teaching in a public school?

  • They're not a bargaining agent, and anyone who thinks that schools would be a utopia if it wasn't for the damned contract getting in the way is fooling themself. Statements like "We focus on what is best for our students and for their education" (see here) are platitudes, just like "What's good for the teacher is what's good for the student."

  • Then there's things like their commentary on teacher compensation (here, see page 4) which calls for "new fresh ideas" to raise teacher compensation. The two ideas they name? Local only bargaining units and faculty senates, different iterations on the theme "Get rid of the union."

The main issue as I see it with the NWPE is that they don't seem to stand for anything besides, "We're not the WEA and NEA!", and I don't think it's enough to say that you're not them. That was basically what John Kerry ran on in 2004, and it didn't work. There has to be content to have any validity, and as I see it right now the NWPE doesn't have the content yet.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

The information below should answer some of your questions and comments about Northwest Professional Educators (NWPE).
Mr. Ed Dawson, a high school German and Spanish teacher in Battle Ground, Washington, is NWPE’s president. His editorials about education and labor issues have been published throughout the Northwest.
Regarding legal assistance, NWPE members merely have to contact NWPE by email or phone. Executive Director Cindy Omlin personally assists them and gets them connected with NWPE’s Director of Legal Services who has over 20 years experience in education and labor law. NWPE strives to answer our members legal inquiries within 48 hours. NWPE is the only organization that guarantees over $1,000 in legal services with a local attorney for job protection issues ¾ even for teachers on probationary contracts. In a professional crisis, NWPE members are safe and secure with their $2 million liability insurance, legal protection, and professional counsel.
The state affiliates of the NEA spend member resources electing NEA-friendly candidates. The NEA mandates that in order to belong to their local union, teachers must also support the state union and NEA. It’s all one political organization although the locals take it in the shorts when they lose members. Locals do the hard, honorable work of representing members while the state and national organizations expend their energies on politics that divide educators rather than unite them in a common cause.
NWPE supports collective bargaining OPTIONS for educators. The unified NEA-state-local model hurts local collective bargaining because teachers of various political leanings don’t want to pay for politics for which they disagree. This causes them to regretfully dissassociate from their local union which they would otherwise support which, consequently, weakens the local association.
Union legitimacy is earned by the will of those represented. “Local only teacher unions” can unify teachers around wages and working conditions while respecting the various political views of the district’s educators. It is an empowering option that dignifies all members.

NWPE validity is born out by educators who voluntarily join in spite of having to pay mandatory union representation fees in Washington and Oregon as well as by educators in Idaho, a right-to-work state, who make the comparison between NWPE and the union voluntarily join NWPE. NWPE membership is comprised of educators of all political affiliations, even those who agree with union politics. NWPE also counts union members among its membership. Visit the NWPE website at for more content regarding position statements, educational resources, beliefs, and member testimonials.

4:03 PM  
Blogger Ryan said...

I thank you for the thoughtful reply!

6:57 AM  
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5:12 AM  

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