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Q: Do We Need Teachers' Unions? A: It's Not Up To Us.


Hey Jenn, I meant government employee unions vs private. Does Matthew feel there are any differences? Kate, I actually think that in a lot of cases Teachers Unions work for the betterment of students but they always have self interests first. For example, let's say hypothetically a new technology came along which produced guaranteed 30% better retention in students, and required 30% fewer teachers therefore saving money. Would the teachers unions be in favor of that knowing it would cause some of their members to be laid off? The only people who will always put the students interests first will be the parents.

Crudbasher, Thanks for your comment. When it comes to the right of workers to organize unions (or other types of work-based organizations), no - I do not draw a distinction between public and private sector employees. All workers – and all people, for that matter – have the right to pool resources in order to advocate for their beliefs. Thanks again, MD

Matthew, Nice post. I think it's a lot more inviting to start a discussion with a rational, non-emotion based argument. I understand what you are writing but I have a question: Do you draw any distinctions between government and non government unions? Why or why not?

I am a first time commenter to this blog but this post moved me to comment for three reasons: 1. I hear this sort of thing all the time from well-meaning and not-so-well-meaning people. It is a close cousin to the popular right-wing argument that unions were important years ago but are no longer necessary. It seems to me that this sentiment is reflective of a culture that has moved away from seeing communal institutions as important to society in and of themselves. The union is not the AAA. We don't join because we might break down and need help at work. We join, amongst other reasons, because collective bargaining is useful and necessary in any workplace, even workplaces with the "best" of bosses. 2. There is another troubling aspect to this sort of statement, which Matt touches on but does not develop. It is troubling anytime privileged people (or people who think they're privileged) start debating whether some type of public good is necessary for some other (possibly less privileged) group. I, for example, cringe anytime I hear lawyer friends talking about whether workers "need" collective bargaining. It's like listening to a bunch of straight people talk about whether gay people "need" marriage. As Matt says, these are fundamental rights and it's not up to us. 3. The only thing I object to about this post is Matt's false modesty about his knowledge of labor law. Sam

A very subtle yet profound point. Thank you, Matthew, for pointing it out. Here's a piece I wrote recently that follows this line of logic:

I am not sure that I understand the question raised by Crudbasher - government unions a la China which aren't really free trade unions at all? Or was the question about government employee unions versus private sector unions? Big distinction.

I work at a charter school and we need a voice. We need it to protect ourselves and our students. Many people forget or choose to ignore the fact that Teachers' Unions also work for the betterment of students' educations, too.


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