Math teacher Donna Walters, president of the Erie 1 Professional Education Association, knows a thing or two about the teaching profession — and the value and importance of being a union member.
As a 25-year classroom veteran, labor leader and union activist, she’s the perfect person to offer advice to new teachers who, as they settle into their careers, may also be wondering about their rights on the job.
Walters urges new teachers to get involved in their local.
“The higher the percentage of union members, the more strength and power the union has to make sure your contract is upheld, state regulations are upheld, that everyone is treated fairly and appropriately — and most importantly, that what’s best for students is what’s occurring.”
She offers a four-point “To-Do List” for those just starting out and who want to be involved in our union:
It’s important to understand the relationship that exists between labor and management in your district. Ask your fellow members to fill you in.
Read it now. And read it from cover to cover. It's critical to understand the rights and benefits our union has fought for.
Read your contract? Good. Now, find a union rep you like and trust, and make that person a friend. It’s important to know there is someone who has your back.
Getting involved in your local union can take many forms. Talk to your local leaders to see what you can do to help the cause. You might even consider becoming a union rep yourself.
“Unionism is going to be what keeps us in the middle class,” says Walters. “In this country, there is a much greater divide between the haves and have-nots and it's only the strength of the union that will help maintain and develop the middle class and offer your family life-long stability.”