“Do I care about the Union?”

Do I care about the Union?



Tonight I participated in the first general meeting of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers for the school year 2012-2013. This is a pretty important year since our contract is set to expire in August 2013 and a lot of people are wondering whether we are going to go the route of Newark, NJ or Chicago, IL. A number of people are concerned about loss of pension benefits, teacher evaluation tied to student test scores, and more.

But my main question is: Do I care about the Union?

My demographic is traditionally uninvolved in Union politics, and for good reason: we don’t feel a part of it.

Even though the Union negotiates our contract and we are subject to their collective bargaining unit, few young teachers like myself feel that we have ownership or even membership in the Union itself. This is quite strange since the whole concept of the Union is to get people like me together and form plans of action to protect ourselves.

That being said, I find myself going to more meetings this year, holding my ear closer to the ground, and trying to pay more attention. I just wish I could convince others to do the same. Some say this is because I care about my salary, my job, and my benefits. I would argue it is because I care about the kids in my classroom.

What person is going to want to stay in a job that has few rewards, both related to salary and emotional issues if they do not feel like they will benefit from it long term? I am certain that without the Union, teachers would be on their own in a very bad way.

So, I do indeed still care about the Union and am trying to make the Union care more about me. I am hoping to engage the young teachers across the city to bring them together and see not only that the Union influences policy around us, but that we influence policy around the Union. We should stand up for our beliefs and make it known that we can work together to ensure better teachers for our students, more supplies for our classrooms, and fewer standardized tests mandating low-quality, uncreative instruction.

-Brian Cohen
Teacher, Academy of Palumbo