Collective Bargaining – 2015 Seattle
A big question to many is how do
collective-bargaining laws affect teachers?
Most public school teachers belong to a union, but do not have the
constitutional right to collectively bargain.
Each state is different in the laws that affect teacher’s unions in the
bargaining process. The collective-bargaining
process differs considerable from state to state. Some states provide more guidance and
specific rules while others are very limited to the information they
provide. For example, the state of
Arizona has not enacted a collective-bargaining statute while Washington
statute permits bargaining by public employees, including certified educational
In September 2015, a union
representing about 5,000 Seattle teachers and other workers believed that
contract talks had broken down and the first strike in 30 years was started and
halted the first scheduled day of classes.
Issues over pay, staffing levels and student testing could not be
resolved which ultimately resulted in the strike. The 2015 Seattle strike was the largest since
Chicago’s massive strike in 2012. (Strauss, 2015)
The Seattle Education Association stated that the Seattle Public School
Teachers hadn’t received a cost-of-living increase in six years and had also
gone five years without a state increase in contributions to employee health
care. The also claimed that the Seattle
Public School administration had drafted a proposal that would of forced
teachers to work longer hours without additional pay. The union also believed that 52,000 students
weren’t able to receive the help they need because teacher workloads were
already too demanding.
The Seattle teachers and
administrators were able to reach an agreement in a week. They were able to agree on cost-of-living
raises, and a guaranteed 30-minute daily recess for all elementary school
students. Union and school officials
agreed to create committees at 30 of the schools and would focus on equality
issues, to include disciplinary issues that affect minorities. One of the biggest wins for the Seattle
teachers was the end to the use of student standardized test scores to evaluate
them. It was decided that teachers would
not be included in decisions on the amount of standardized testing for
students. Another big win was that
Special education teachers would now have fewer students to work with at a time. Seattle teachers had said they were not only
fighting for pay raises but to also make the system better for their
students. (Strauss, 2015)
The strike received strong support from parents even though the school
was forced to close.
As of 2016, more than 60 percent of
teachers in the United States work under a union contract. Those against collective-bargaining believe
that unions have a negative affect on the quality of public education. Those in favor of collective-bargaining would
argue that unions make the education system more effective by allowing teachers
to shape their working conditions.
Currently there are thirty-four states that have laws that require
schools to bargain with teachers, but in seven states collective-bargaining is
not allowed by either statute or legal opinion.
In the other eight remaining states, collective-bargaining is only
permitted if the teachers union and district agree. The law for collective-bargaining is there to
help strengthen teacher unions and give them an ability to influence how their
school district allocates their resources.
A study completed in 2016 provided
evidence of how the laws of collective-bargaining that support the teacher
affected future employment for students and their earnings. Many critics would argue that
collective-bargaining in public education has shown to reduce the quality of
school by shifting resources towards teachers and away from education. However there are those that believe that
states with stronger unions benefits the students by providing teachers with
the expertise to create a more effective learning environment.
In 2016, Michael Lovenheim and Alex
Willen published “The Long-Run Effects of Teacher Collective Bargaining,” This
paper took a look at the impact of teacher collective bargaining on long-run
labor market and educational outcomes for students. Lovenheim and Willen found that collective
bargaining lead to worse labor market outcomes and that students who live in a
state who has a “duty-to-bargain’ law for all 12 years of their schooling were
known to have a two percent lower earnings by the time they are 35-to-49. Lovenheim and Willen also found evidence that
collective bargaining lead to lower wages and caused workers to seek lower-skilled
occupations later in life and that the laws only had a modest effect on
(Lovenheim & Willen, 2016)
Prior to the 1960s, unions for
teachers in the US were mostly made up of professional organizations that had
little to do with the contract negotiations between teachers and the school
districts. By 1987 things had changed
significantly and 33 states passed duty-to-bargain laws. Teacher strikes have continued throughout the
years and as recent as January 2018 in a West Chicago High School. This strike was declared after both sides
were unable to come to an agreement over salaries, health benefits and other
key points. Teachers’ unions provide
legal protection and advice on a wide range of work-related issues. Teachers are not required to join a union,
but can often times risk losing perks that the union may have to offer.