Julie UnderwoodWhen you get offered a job in a school district, you will be asked to sign a contract. Teachers’ contracts these days are not just simple, one-page agreements. They are complex documents, generally negotiated by a union or professional association, and contain standard terms about salaries, leaves, benefits, and responsibilities. You should read the contract so you’re aware of the conditions of your employment, but keep in mind that you have no negotiating power on your own if you see something that you don’t like. Below are some answers to questions you may have as you page through it.

May I join a union?

Teachers, like other public employees, have the right to join organizations; that is part of the constitutionally protected right to freedom of association covered in the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Keyishian v. Bd. of Regents (1967). But when they think about unions, most people aren’t just thinking about joining an organization. They are thinking about the union’s role in negotiating contracts, or collective bargaining. The right to join an association doesn’t ensure the right to collective bargaining.

The ability to engage in collective bargaining is controlled by state labor laws, so it varies considerably across the U.S. About three-fourths of the states allow collective bargaining for teachers. About a dozen states have no legislation addressing the bargaining rights for any public employees.

Among the most common items negotiated by teacher unions are salary, benefits, evaluations, leaves of absence, reassignments and transfers, reductions in force, and grievance procedures. Again, the actual scope of the negotiations varies considerably depending on state statute, which may be restrictive, broad, or completely silent.

Log in or become a member to read more!
Want to read the rest of this article? Pi Lambda Theta members enjoy full access to Educational Horizons online.