Collective Bargaining/Exclusive Consultation
One of ATPE’s guiding tenets is that educators
have the right to work in public schools without being forced to join any particular
organization. That is why opposing collective bargaining and exclusive consultation policies
for public education has long been a major component of ATPE’s legislative program.
Texas is a “right to work” state. This means by
law, employees cannot be forced to join a professional organization as a term of employment.
In states such as New York and Michigan that don’t have “right to work” laws, all teachers are
forced to become members of the union that represents their district. In some cases, unions
have even sued educators who refused membership and won! Collective bargaining agreements and
exclusive consultation policies leave the door open for this kind of union tactic.
ATPE believes that collective bargaining and
exclusive consultation policies create an adversarial relationship between employees and
employers that compromise students’ education. Collective bargaining agreements also lead to
strikes and work stoppages which are ultimately harmful to students.
What is collective
Collective bargaining is a process by which management and labor (school boards and educators)
negotiate to reach an agreement on working conditions such as salaries, hours and benefits.
Although on the surface this does not sound like a bad thing, the danger lies in the details.
How it works
If Texas law were changed to allow collective bargaining for public school employees
(currently it is prohibited), districts would typically hold an election to determine which
employee group would be designated to represent all district employees. Only the designated
group would be allowed to negotiate with the school board. All other groups and their members
would be shut out of the process. In this situation, organizations could coerce educators into
becoming members because they would otherwise have no representation to the school board.
Work stoppages and strikes
ATPE’s bylaws state that ATPE is committed to the principal that strikes, work stoppages and
the threat thereof are detrimental to professional educators and the students they serve. In
collective bargaining arrangements, striking is the most powerful bargaining tool of an
employee bargaining unit. Statistics prove that strikes happen more frequently in collective
bargaining situations regardless of whether striking is legal. Because ATPE’s priority is to
support Texas students by supporting educators, we vehemently oppose strikes, which ultimately
deprive children of their right to an education.
In Texas, striking is currently illegal for
public school employees. As a penalty for breaking this law, educators who strike will have
their teaching certificates and their TRS retirements permanently revoked.
What is consultation?
Because collective bargaining is illegal for public school employees, many districts have a
consultation policy that allows a school board to "meet and confer" with educators about
educational policy and employment conditions. This is different than collective bargaining and
therefore legal because employees’ input is considered advisory; there is no binding legal
contract and the school boards make any final decisions.
An exclusive consultation policy designates one group to exclusively represent all employees.
This is opposed by ATPE for many of the same reasons as collective bargaining. In exclusive
consultation agreements educators are forced to either belong to the designated organization
or have no representation to the school board. Exclusive consultation agreements allow only
the views and ideas of the exclusive agent to be heard by the school board and are not
appropriate for public education.
ATPE supports inclusive consultation policies in which all employee organizations are allowed
to consult with school boards on issues important to the organization’s members. Even though
as the largest educator organization ATPE would likely be the group designated to represent
employees in a large number of districts, we believe it takes an entire community to educate
Texas’ children. This includes parents, faculty, and even employee organizations that have
different beliefs than our own.
Inclusive consultation policies also protect
educators against being coerced to join an organization that might not represent their beliefs
and being forced to pay exorbitant union dues.
Protecting Texas teachers from a
ATPE has fought the collective bargaining battle for more than two decades. In 1979, the Texas
State Teachers Association (TSTA), the Texas affiliate of the NEA, formally decided to support
collective bargaining for teachers and introduced its first collective bargaining bill in the
1980 legislative session. The union group has continued to introduce or support similar bills
in nearly every session since.
In contrast, ATPE has consistently tried to
increase the distance between Texas and the possibility of collective bargaining. ATPE has
initiated several pieces of legislation to prohibit school boards from agreeing to consult
with only one organization. Both TSTA and the Texas Federation of Teachers (TFT), the local
affiliate of the AFT/AFL-CIO, have consistently opposed these efforts.
ATPE will continue to work hard during every
legislative session to stop any attempt to push a collective bargaining bill through the
Legislature. Such attempts won’t come from only the educator union groups. Non-educator unions
in both the public and private sectors have introduced collective bargaining legislation over
the years as well. If any of these groups get a law passed that allows collective bargaining
in the public sector, public education would be included.
ATPE does not support a system that encourages
work stoppages and divisiveness between school boards and educators. Because ATPE is now the
largest educators’ organization in Texas, it’s obvious that most Texas educators agree with
ATPE’s collaborative approach to solving public education’s problems.
For more information on collective bargaining
and exclusive consultation, contact ATPE Governmental
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