Is the Teachers Union the Only Source of Benefits for Teachers?
Good question! There can be confusion around the benefits offered by employers, teachers unions, and non-union teaching associations. We want to make it easier for teachers to understand where their benefits are coming from so they are empowered to make the decisions that best meet their needs.
Which benefits are provided by employers?
The first thing to know is which benefits are provided by your school district. These benefits are based on your teaching contract and do not require membership in a teachers union or teaching association:
- Health insurance
This list is not comprehensive, your teaching contract may include additional benefits.
Teachers do not have to be members of a union or teaching association.
No teacher can be required to join a teachers union or a teaching association. Your teaching contract and negotiated benefits are not dependent on membership.
The second thing to note is that no one should pressure, bully, or guilt you into staying in the union. For over 40 years, educators didn’t have the freedom to decide whether or not we wanted to join a union until the Supreme Court restored our First Amendment rights in 2018. Trying to prevent you from exercising that right is just plain wrong.
What benefits do teachers unions and non-union teaching associations offer?
- Legal Protection – Should you have workplace issues or face a lawsuit arising out of your educational duties, legal protection ensures you have access to legal counsel at the onset and can cover your defense costs.
- Liability Insurance – A professional insurance policy acts as a safeguard to protect your assets if you are sued as a result of an event arising out of your educational duties and have to pay damages. It is good to have your own policy as your school district’s liability insurance policy covers the district, not individual teachers which means it may not cover you, your attorney fees, or the act that triggers a lawsuit.
- Professional Resources – Through member forums and other resources you can access timely advice on navigating classroom and workplace difficulties and stay abreast of new trends.
- Advocacy – Teacher associations speak up for the members they represent, drawing attention to teacher-specific needs and highlighting the current issues they are facing.
- Discounts on supplementary insurance, shopping, and entertainment – Members often receive additional discounts on health insurance, auto insurance, retail purchases, entertainment venues, and more.
What is the difference between teachers unions and non-union teaching associations?
Teachers have options when it comes to professional associations. Below we outline the services each organization offers:
- Teachers union:You are probably already familiar with teachers unions. Typically, there is a local teachers union that is involved with the day-to-day teacher concerns. They provide a host of benefits to teachers, including representation if you have an issue with your school or with a student, liability insurance, professional development, and discounts.
The local union reports to the regional or state-level union which then reports to one of the national teaching unions. The regional and national unions are often involved with policy beyond education and frequently support political campaigns. You will pay dues to the local union, most of which will be sent to the state and national unions.
Teachers unions currently have exclusive collective bargaining rights, which allows them the power to negotiate salary and several other factors. Strikes can take place as part of those negotiations and members are expected to take part in those even if they don’t agree on the issue.
Union membership is annual and if you decide to leave, the union may try to limit your opt out period to a few weeks during the year, typically around your membership anniversary or a designated time frame.
- Non-union teaching association: These organizations include national, regional, and discipline-specific options and can offer a host of benefits to their members including legal representation if you have an issue with your school or with a student, liability insurance, professional development, and discounts.
While these organizations advocate on behalf of their members, they do not have collective bargaining rights. They are also non-partisan and do not take political stances or support political campaigns. Typically, the focus of these associations is on fostering member development and success. Because they are not supporting outside issues, dues are often much lower than teacher unions.
Here are a few of the non-union teaching associations available to teachers in the United States:
- Association of American Educators
- Christian Educators Association International
- Arkansas State Teachers Association
- Associated Professional Educators of Louisiana
- Kansas Association of American Educators
- Professional Association of Colorado Educators
- Northwest Professional Educators
Check out this chart for an overview of the benefits each teacher association type offers: