Trade Unions in USA

In my coursework into finding out to what extent are trade unions a force for good in secondary education I shall be examining the different unions found in my own college and gathering primary research from members of these using questionnaires and interviews. I will be discovering why each member of staff joined the different unions, gathering their thoughts on the pros and cons of each. I hope to discover what impact these trade unions have on secondary education and to see what they offer in support to their members.

More complex questionnaires and interviews with the representatives of each union found in my college will allow me to gather a larger insight into the depths of each organisation. I intend to carry out interviews with both my principle and vice-principle to gather their views on teaching unions and ascertain what differences there are with the unions available exclusively for head teachers and vice-principles.

I maintain that teaching unions are very much a force for good in secondary education, as although they concern the teachers primarily I still believe that they have a succeeding effect on the students themselves in many important ways. For example if a teacher is not a member of a union and therefore do not have any of the protection that the union offers in relation to financial support, then the teacher may be reluctant to organising a field trip or visit somewhere in conjunction with the particular subject as it exposes the students to a higher level of dangers and accidents in which the teacher will be the one held responsible.

Without the legal and financial back up of the union then the teacher may face serious consequences if a lawsuit is brought before him in regard to the protection of his/her students. Another division of many teaching unions is the opportunity to take training courses with them such as with 'NASUWT' (National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers). This union offers Health & Safety courses and seminars that educate those who take it in the many different aspects of protection from first aid to sun-exposure.

This not only in turn creates an environment that is safer for students to work in but also increases confidence and well being within the teachers, knowing that they have a larger knowledge and understanding of Health & Safety; furthermore being self-assured with themselves that they are capable to act more efficiently and accordingly if a situation was to arise. After I have gathered my primary research from the different sources I shall use them to compare and contrast the difference between the teaching unions I have looked at but also focusing on the question in hand and attempt to draw conclusions from what I have discovered.

I believe that this is an adequate amount of research to create a synopsis and justify the analyzation of my findings in relation to the original hypothesis and proposal. The role of all teaching unions is to offer support to their members and provide them with assistance anytime throughout their teaching career. Trips, false accusations, assaults, dealing with aggressive children or those with allergies or epilepsy - all of these could lead you into legal minefields. Unions give you the back-up, representation and insurance you need.

I have looked at the different websites of the 3 main unions found at my college to see what the unions themselves say that they can offer for their members. The National Union of Teachers overall appears to be highly committed to the promotion and recognition of the professionalism of teachers. It is the largest union in the UK with over 273,000 members. Arthur Jarman, its assistant secretary, said: "We're the largest union, so we're the most representative. We only recruit qualified teachers, or those seeking qualification, so we focus on teachers' needs and nobody else's.

" The website clearly presents its views on current government issues and the unions goals and objectives. The NASUWT, with over 236,000 members provides lots of information on current legislation and the issues that teachers may face in their career. Chris Keates, the NASUWT general secretary believes that her union attracts the realists among teachers. "My members are people who want a union that's pragmatic," she said. "But they're not shy of taking action where it's necessary. " It is said that teachers who find unions such as NUT and NASUWT too hard-lined often look drawn towards ATL.

Mark Holding, the head of recruitment and organisation in ATL, highlights the fact that his 122,813 members are drawn from all levels of the education profession and claims "We robustly represent them in terms of contractual changes, workload agreements and so on. But we also give advice when and how they need it. And we're serious about giving our members a true say in how their union represents them. " Many people may join because they wouldn't want a strike imposed upon them such like other unions might do to their members. Occasionally the ATL will vote for industrial action

So the contrast between the main teaching unions is more the morals and ethics it carries more than what it can do to support its members. It appears that all unions care for their members fairly equally but have different opinions and means of making a mend in what they feel is wrong. I. e. the NASUWT are prepared to strike and fight for their cause more than the ATL who will not strike, as their main priority is the children; however they will push and pressure the government to change its' policies in other ways, also voting for industrial action if required.

I have included a news story that shows the importance of the unions and what each union's general secretary had to say on the matter. Returning to the argument of what trade unions actually achieve, it enables employees to make agreements that will actually stick because usually the threat of what the union could do in revolt if the agreement doesn't stand deters the manager from abolishing it. When there is a large body within an organisation all with the same wants and needs then it makes it far easier from the managerial side of view to deal with all of them.

However if there weren't these unions then it would make it much harder for agreements to be made, as every individual will have their own view and therefore creating unhappiness within the workgroup. Having unions resolves many of the problems although usually there shall be more than one union, each with different needs so not everyone can be happy at any one time. It has been said that teaching associations are far more than trade unions as they are effectively professional bodies that arguably do more to promote standards than the unrepresentative General Teaching Council.

Now this appears to be true in many ways. From my research through questionnaires it undoubtedly became clear that the majority of teachers were extremely unhappy with the fact that the GTC did nothing for them but still being made to pay the annual fee to stay with them. Many believed that the GTC offered nothing for them and relied completely upon their teaching union. Each teaching association comprises of extremely high numbers of members with all of the numbers adding together to be just under the amount of teachers in the UK.

Trade unions are far less complex than that of the teaching associations and generally offer less in support, both in their lack of training courses and services provided. Since the GTC was finally introduced in 2000 many people have not been convinced that it is worthwhile and lost hope with it. Teaching unions, i. e. the NASUWT have said that they wish for the GTC not to get involved with teachers' pay and conditions. Simon Whitney, of the association's Norfolk branch, said: "I still need to be convinced that we even need a GTC.

The GTC is being imposed on us, certainly it is something that this organisation never wanted or asked for. " Teaching unions have done far more for teaching and education than the GTC, such as improving the conditions and pay. PAT stands alone amongst the unions in maintaining a no-strike policy and tends to have members who are mid-career who are fed up of being asked to take industrial action against something they don't believe in. Philip Parkin the general secretary for PAT said, "Our members join because they want a fourth emergency service. They want someone to help if something goes wrong.

" So, unlike the other associations, PAT doesn't have much political influence as it refuses to adopt the policies that allow it to take a more physical approach to resolving issues. Without the back-up of a threat of industrial action the government is unlikely to introduce or change legislation so thus rendering PAT a pretty useless union for satisfying the needs of it's members. Teaching unions are different to unions in industry in many ways; such as every member of the teaching unions are graduates and that they are far more likely to take industrial action.

From my questionnaires I have discovered that there are generally more members in 'the big three' NUT, NASUWT and ATL than others such as PAT. I've found out that the members have chosen to join these unions over others usually on word of mouth, recommendation or being approached first. Rarely was it due to any other reason. This leads to suggest that they have joined not because they have reviewed each union carefully and decided upon which represents them greater than others but because it seemed easier to choose that certain one. The fees for each individual union differs (see Appendix C.

) which as mentioned in many of my questionnaires can be an issue in choosing which union to go with. Overall this could propose the idea that teachers are generally less concerned with what their union offers but with the assurance that they will be financially covered when they are needed. During an interview with one of my teachers, it became apparent that she knew nothing about her own teaching union or any in fact; she just paid the annual fee and thought nothing of it. This clear lack of understanding for teaching unions can undoubtedly affirm that trade unions were not a force for good in her teaching of secondary education.

Although this view of one teacher cannot be universalised to all, it can bring to light the suggestion that many teachers may feel the same. On handing out my questionnaires, another teacher who obviously perplexed by the depth of the questions claimed she didn't understand half of it because she had never needed to think about them; once again just paid the fees to a 'teaching union' and carried on with the day-to-day work. Most findings however gave more comprehensive and qualitative data that boded fairy useful.