Teachers' unions are bargaining units that convey the demands of educators to officials so they can address their needs to improve working conditions for them. Why are teachers part of a union? Before teachers unionized, regulations in the field were minimal. The development of teachers' unions created a transformative movement that empowered teachers.
The National Education Association was the first teachers' union founded by forty-three educators in 1857 in Philadelphia. Its official mission statement was “to elevate the character and advance the interest of the profession of teaching, and to promote the cause of popular education in the United States.”
This new teachers’ union focused on:
The next significant point was the formation of The American Federation of Teachers in 1916 in Chicago. Both of these organizations were groundbreaking in their work to shape the educational system over the 20th century.
In 1965, the scope of these organizations was dramatically widened with the passage of the Primary and Secondary Education Act. Following the act, unions were able to discuss broader topics, such as class size limits, teacher layoffs, and evaluations. They started putting forward increased demands, such as requests for federal and state grants to support their cause.
From the first teachers’ strike in 1902 to holding online union elections, teachers' unions have come a long way. Here are some notable events in the history of teachers' unions:
But the pandemic led to another considerable change, as well–with online education becoming the new norm, many teachers’ unions introduced the concept of online voting, as it was a more efficient alternative to traditional ballot voting. Online voting was a change appreciated by many, as it allowed members to vote from the comfort of their homes; it also positively impacted voter turnout.
Teachers' unions started with humble beginnings in early days and led up to form an influential movement. Their history tells a story marked with resilience, solidarity, and growth.
As we reflect on the past and the enduring spirit of teacher unionization, it is clear that this movement will continue to shape the future of education while improving the lives of educators.
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