Teachers in Illinois won the state-wide right to collective bargaining back in the 80s. It was an important victory.
Which is why they are trying so hard to take it away or make meaningless the rights and protections that a bargained contractual agreement contains.
I remember the days when I was my local’s grievance committee chairman and then later our local’s president and I would call my IEA staffer (called a Uniserv Director in NEA speak) and say, “I want to file a grievance.”
“Tell me what part of the contract they violated,” the UD would say.
And I would tell him the page and section and inevitably he would say, “Klonsky, that’s kind of a stretch.”
And I would say, “I know. But the teacher isn’t being treated right and I want to push back. We may not win this thing, but they will know they can’t do us this way. And we will win something.”
Having a collectively bargained agreement that specifies salary, benefits and working conditions was an essential protection for us.
But it rarely was my starting point as a local union leader when I was dealing with the board or administration.
Because collective bargaining was something I did every day.
There was the time I was sitting at a local bar talking with one of my state union’s top staff person. This was more maybe fifteen years ago.
“The days when the fight for collective bargaining is over,” he told me. “Now our teacher unions must be seen as being in the forefront of educational quality.”
“I think we need to be engaged in both,” I said. “But I do collective bargaining every day. We fight to have our voice represented in every decision that the board makes. That’s part of collective bargaining too.”
He disagreed. And we have paid a price for that these past fifteen years.