Association of Texas Professional Educators

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 bargaining?
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.

Exclusive consultation
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.

Inclusive Consultation
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 union-regulated workplace
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 Relations.

Back to top