The following was composed as a final assignment for my Master’s in Educational Administration. Its focus is on the NCAE and its presence in education in North Carolina. Feedback and comments are encouraged. Thanks.
The current educational climate in the United States is one of severe budget cuts, thousands of teacher and support staff layoffs, increased class sizes, cuts to school programs and extracurricular activities compounded by reductions in program funding. The lack of union representation in North Carolina is a mitigating factor allowing the House to pass draconian cuts to education facing limited opposition. The teacher workforce has a voice through the North Carolina Association of Teachers but have limited legal recourse outside of waiting for the general elections on House representatives. Similar events have transpired across the USA even in states where unions do speak with a collective voice for educators. At the time this paper was written Ohio voters rejected a bill that would have stripped collective bargaining rights, eliminated binding arbitration as well as remove the ability of public sector union members to strike. In the midst of all of the labor events, rallies and discussions, my focus turned towards events and discussions taking place in North Carolina as these events have a direct impact on my career. Throughout this paper I am going to explore the relationship North Carolina legislators have had with the education field paying particular attention to the North Carolina Association of Educators and the role they have played in support of education.
North Carolina started with two distinct education associations in the mid and later 1800’s. The North Carolina Association of Teachers was organized in 1857 followed twenty three years later by the formation of The North Carolina Teachers Association organized in 1880. These two associations existed independently until 1970 when The North Carolina Association of Educators was formed on July 1, 1970, by the merger of the North Carolina Education Association and the North Carolina Teachers Association. Documents merging the two associations were signed at the National Educators Association Convention in San Francisco, California. The amalgamation of the two education entities resulted in the NCAE being one of the larger state affiliates of the NEA ranking 14th of the 53 NEA affiliates(NCAE, 2011). NCAE adopted an amendment to their Constitution requiring unified membership with the National Education Association in 1974, effective with the 1974-1975 membership year. Today NCAE is an all-inclusive association with specific categories including teaching and non teaching school personnel eligible for membership. Teacher assistants are eligible for membership in the North Carolina Educational Support Personnel Association which is directly affiliated with NEA. The total membership, including all types of memberships; active, associate, student, retired, and staff is approximately 70,000 (NCAE, 2011). NCAE also has the largest Representative Assembly among the 53 NEA affiliates. The ratio of delegates to active members is 1 to 20 with NCAE’s 131 local units in public school districts, special State schools, and institution of higher education. There are also members in local units too small to qualify as official local units as at least 10 members are required. NCAE is governed by an annual Representative Assembly and a Board of Directors with the Board meeting about six times a year. NCAE employs 74 support and professional staff including 34 employees in regional offices across the state with its headquarters in Raleigh. The state president serves as the full time chief executive officer of the Association with the vice president-president elect also serving full time along with the executive director serving as the chief administrative officer of the Association.
As cited on NCAE’s web page under core values, mission and vision the following are listed as NCAE’s core values: 1) Equal Access – NCAE values equal access to a quality public education that is adequately and equitably funded. 2) Diversity – NCAE values a just society that respects the worth, dignity and equality of every individual. 3) Collective Action – NCAE values an informed membership that works collectively to advance and protect the rights, benefits and interests of education professionals and promote quality public education. 4) Partnerships – NCAE values partnerships with parents, families and communities, as well as coalitions with other stakeholders because they are essential to quality public education and student success. 5) Professionalism – NCAE values the expertise and judgment of educational professionals and believes it is critical for student success. NCAE maintains the highest professional standards and expect the status, compensation and respect due all professionals. 6) Shared Responsibility – NCAE values a collaborative community of members and staff who share the responsibility of achieving NCAE’s goals. Aligned with NCAE’s core values is its mission statement to be the voice of educators in North Carolina that unites, organizes and empowers members to be advocates for education professionals, public education and children which is further supported by NCAE’s vision of an equitable, quality public education for every child (NCAE, 2011).
In chapter 7 Godard presents union formation at a theoretical level focusing on the Orthodox Pluralist perspective which places workers at a disadvantage in the workplace and unions as a means to level the playing field. Godard discusses how workers rights increase as she/he joins a union they are now part of a larger group that has a voice to management as well as this being a natural response to the powerlessness of workers. Unions are seen to give rise to the workers as a collective voice to protect and advance their interests given their place within the industrial capitalist economies. Godard also draws attention to weak or non existent labor movements going hand in hand with authoritarian governments and vice versa. The authoritarian government element of Godard’s view of labor management relations is evident in North Carolina’s right to work ideology as manifest through legislation effectively removing the ability of labor to unionize.
One of the major hurdles for NCAE to overcome is the right to work ideology governing North Carolina law. Right to work laws are statutes enforced in twenty-two U.S. states as allowed under the provisions of the federal Taft-Hartley Act. The statue’s prohibits agreements between labor unions and employers that make membership, payment of union dues, or fees a condition of employment, either before or after hiring. Implementation of the statue’s would require the workplace to be a closed shop.
Prior to the passage of the Taft-Hartley Act by Congress over President Harry S Truman’s veto in 1947, unions and employers covered by the National Labor Relations Act could lawfully agree to a closed shop, in which employees at unionized workplaces must be members of the union as a condition of employment. Under the law in effect before the Taft-Hartley amendments an employee who ceased being a member of the union for reasons ranging from failure to pay dues to expulsion from the union as an internal disciplinary punishment, could also be fired even if the employee did not violate any of the employer’s rules. The Taft-Hartley Act outlawed closed shop unions as they existed prior to the right to work legislation as the law changed the dynamics of workers rights in relation to the union shop rule no longer requiring all new employees to join a union after a minimum period after her/his hire and making such requirements illegal as it was also illegal for any employer to force an employee to join a union. A similar arrangement to the union shop is the agency shop, under which employees must pay the equivalent of union dues, but need not formally join said union. Section 14 (b) of the Taft-Hartley Act goes further by authorizing individual states, not local governments such as cities or counties, to outlaw the union shop and agency shop for employees working in their jurisdictions. Under the open shop rule an employee cannot be compelled to join or pay the equivalent of dues to a union, nor can the employee be fired if she/he joins the union. In other words, the employee has the right to work, regardless of whether or not she/he is a member or financial contributor to a union (Right to work, 2011).
North Carolina was in support of the right to work ideology as Department of Labor and Labor Regulations Article 10 Declaration of Policy as to Labor Organizations. N.C. General Statute §§ 95 declares…
§ 95-78. Declaration of public policy.
The right to live includes the right to work. The exercise of the right to work must be protected and maintained free from undue restraints and coercion. It is hereby declared to be the public policy of North Carolina that the right of persons to work shall not be denied or abridged on account of membership or nonmembership in any labor union or labor organization or association. (Enacted March 18, 1947.)
(National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, 2010)
In N.C an individual is free to work regardless of their affiliation with a union however Article 12 of the N.C Gen. Stat. covering the assembly of members and collective rights of workers states…
§ 95-98. Contracts between units of government and labor unions,trade unions or labor organizations concerning public employees declared to be illegal.
Any agreement, or contract, between the governing authority of any city, town, county, or other municipality, or between any agency, unit, or instrumentality thereof, or between any agency, instrumentality, or institution of the State of North Carolina, and any labor union, trade union, or labor organization, as bargaining agent for any public employees of such city, town, county or other municipality, or agency or instrumentality of government, is hereby declared to be against the public policy of the State, illegal, unlawful, void and of no effect.(Enacted 1959.)
(National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, 2010)
Adding to the state’s power under the right to work N.C Gen. Stat. Article 12 subsection 95-100.
No provisions of Article 10 of Chapter 95 applicable to units of government or their employees. The provisions of Article 10 of Chapter 95 of the General Statutes shall not apply to the State of North Carolina or any agency, institution, or instrumentality thereof or the employees of same nor shall the provisions of Article 10 of Chapter 95 of the General Statutes apply to any public employees or any employees of any town, city, county or other municipality or the agencies or instrumentalities thereof, nor shall said Article apply to employees of the State or any agencies, instrumentalities or institutions thereof or to any public employees whatsoever. (Enacted 1959.)
(National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, 2010)
The right to work concept of labor governance is in stark contrast to the democratization function unions are to bring to the working environment. According to Godard the democratizing function of unions is to introduce the aspect of democracy into workplace relationships. Godard describes the democratizing function as; providing workers with legal representation, collective representation, regulating the exercise of managerial authority, reverse authority to work from bottom up via a collective voice of workers, and over all allows workers to participate in a democratic workplace environment (Godard 2011, p184-6). Worker frustrations as a result of management’s removal of labors voice can only increase tensions between management and labor. As Godard states in chapter 13,
As is the case in authoritarian states, workers cannot elect or appoint their rulers, and they have little or no legal rights to participate in the legal governance of the organization for which they work. This, coupled with the conflicts which underlie labor-management relations, means that distrust and resentment almost always pervade the workplace, albeit in varying degrees (Godard 2011, p. 333).
Even though NCAE is prevented from acting as a bargaining agent the organization states in article 3 section 12 in reference to collective bargaining that the NCAE believes the passage of collective bargaining should be a priority of the Association, and that the Association should seek support from NEA in this effort. Although NCAE is restricted from forming a collective voice the organization does attempt to support its members in other areas in much the same manner a union would. As NCAE tax documents detail the purpose of its mission includes, [Tax] Exempt status under 501(c) 6 with a purpose to advance the interests of educators and the promotion and protection of welfare of the association’s members along with advancing the interests of the teaching profession (Luebke, 2011). The NCAE Constitution cites within its Articles support structures at various levels. Article VI Section 2 discusses the role of Local Affiliates in that the Association shall support its local affiliates in their efforts to negotiate contracts and/or improve personnel policies with their local boards of education, and shall support its locals in their efforts to be recognized as the exclusive agent and initiate the bargaining process (NCAE, 2011) Expanding outward in the structural dynamics of NCAE the next level of representation as covered in Article VII Section 1 outlining the functions of the Representative Assembly shall be the statewide representative body of the Association and shall have the following functions: a) to serve as a policy-making body on behalf of the membership in carrying out the purposes of the Association, b) to review the work of the commissions and committees of the Association, and c) to receive, to review, and to take action on proposed amendments to the constitution, according to the procedures set forth in Article XIV. In this capacity the NCAE’s members role at the local level is similar to a union local with the local members being based on geographical ties and having voting rights within the organization. NCAE also has within its organizational structure a Parent level which has approximately 113 locals that are affiliated under the same name and are subject to constitutional guidelines and structures (NCAE, 2011).
The NCAE’s guidelines and structures are outlined in the organizations platforms and resolutions. In chapter 8 Godard cites several union functions being; to take wages out of competition, organize the unorganized, provide expertise in grievance handling, provide strike support, and represent the members inside and outside the labor force (Godard, 2011 p. 203-9). The following are NCAE Platforms and Resolutions from 2011 highlighting specific areas that are connected to union based functions. Paragraph 10 discusses the Fair Employment and Dismissal Act…
NCAE believes in the principles established by the Fair Employment and Dismissal Act and will oppose any weakening of this important legislation. NCAE affirms its belief that all professional educators, including those who are probationary (1992), should be covered by the Act. (1984) (2008) (p. 2)
covered in Paragraph 11 Professional Rights and Responsibilities…
NCAE believes in the fundamental right of educators to organize in their own self-interest and to speak out in defense of educators, students and parents. NCAE strongly supports the right and responsibility of each educator to be actively involved in all levels of a professional organization. NCAE further believes that these rights should be respected to the extent that there will never be any fear of reprisal or limitation. (1984) (2008) (p. 3)
Also highlighted in the NCAE document are current resolution goals working to further the organization’s support of educators:
Goal 1: -Develop a strong program of professional advocacy for education.
Goal 2: -Strengthen the Association and increase service to members.
Goal 3: -Intensify the drive to protect and secure human, civil and professional rights.
Goal 4: -Improve the economic well-being of educators.
Goal 5: -Promote excellence in education.
The function of the goals listed above align with the roles and functions of a union in their support of educators however, lurking within the legislation framework of North Carolina is the work to rule law as cited in Article 12 subsection 95-98 which severely restricts the collective voice of NCAE preventing the organization from acting as a bargaining agent in contract negotiations and teachers would be ill advised to take job action particularly strike.
With severely limited means by which to effect educational legislation without retribution the NCAE has to incorporate various tactics to inform its members and create a collective voice outside the scope of traditional union roles. In this aspect the NCAE plays the role of a lobbying group. The NCAE encourages political involvement via their legislative alerts# section link on their web page which contain ‘Action Alerts’ that outline educational issues, provide an article for background information, talking points for the particular issue and the contact information, including email and phone number, of the House representative asking educators to ‘Take Action’. The most recent listing on the ‘Action Alerts’ page highlights Tom Tillis, the House Speaker, and the 27% pay raises several of his staffers have received in contrast to teachers wages remaining frozen. NCAE offers the following talking points to share with House Speaker Tillis; 1. educators have not gotten a raise or step increase in 3 years, 2. NC teacher pay is at 45th nationally, and declining, educators have administered & met expectations of the ABC testing program & the General Assembly has not paid up in 3 years, 3. the Tillis budget will take NC to last in almost every educational category yet he finds the resources to give pay raises to advisers within months of their employment (NCAE, 20). The NCAE also encourages direct political action as stated in Article 2 Section 13 of the NCAE Political Action Committee,
NCAE believes that the NCAE Political Action Committee should be involved in the election of the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, State Superintendent of Public Instruction and all other political races which affect education. State and local PAC funds should be used to support those candidates who support legislation guaranteeing equal treatment of men and women. Support of this concept should be used as a determining factor when deciding between two equally qualified and education-oriented candidates.
Evidence of this type of political action is reflected in NCAE’s active steps in support of political candidates as the NCAE and NEA contributed $1.8 million dollars to Gov. Perdue’s 2008 campaign (Bejan, 2011). Another example of political involvement was the NCAE took a stand this past June in reaction to the Legislative House overriding Gov. Bev Perdue’s veto of the budget which placed education funding on the chopping block as the Republican-authored budget would lead to the elimination of 6,000 teacher and teacher assistant jobs and drop North Carolina to 49th in the nation in funding per pupil (Perez, 2011). Frustrated but not defeated, hundreds of educators organized by the NCAE stood out front of the state capitol in Raleigh for a lobby day and to deliver 10,000 pennies and copies of the state constitution (Perez, 2011). The symbolism of the penny reflected the cut of a penny tax which resulted in a loss of one billion dollars in education funding for the state. NCAE president Sheri Strickland spoke to the public assuring educators, parents and students that NCAE is going to continue this battle. Strickland said,
It is unfortunate that today legislators have decided they do not want to listen and they have chosen to turn their backs on our future. . . But our efforts will continue. We may have not been able to save the one cent tax today but the fight to save our schools will continue.
The battle continued several weeks later when another NCAE lobby for education funding drew a crowd of approximately three thousand in support. However, the Republican majority House took retributive actions towards NCAE by passing legislation removing the ability of NCAE members to have NCAE fees drafted from their paychecks and require a one time payment of $415, for a full time educator, or monthly payments via checks to be mailed to NCAE headquarters (Bejan, 2011). Perhaps if NCAE was granted union status the inequity of political power could be leveled as well as an established voice of the education profession could speak on behalf of labor.
Assuring the political power of NCAE and the organizations ability to back candidates the NCAE is classified as a 501(c) 6 tax exempt organization. This tax status affords NCAE the ability to lobby and contribute to political campaigns. The NCAE along with its parent organization the NEA are able to influence political campaigns by spending PAC money endorsing political candidates. Since the NCAE Constitution requires NCAE members to be members of NEA it helps to create the largest teacher union in the nation, although with the right to work laws as they are in NC the membership carries little weight here. As a part of any political game the NCAE frequently criticizes the influence of powerful corporate interests in American politics while at the same time making contributions to electoral favorites. NEA and local affiliates like NCAE do represent a large political influence on American politics as indicated below the NEA and NCAE spent the following on political influences in the past three years:
- In 2008, NEA spent $56.3 million on political campaign contributions.
- In 2009 NCAE made $710,716 in nondeductible lobbying and political expenditures
- NCAE contributed $172,950 to candidates. Democrats received $170,650 in contributions (98.6 percent); Republicans received $2,300 in contributions (1.3 percent).
- NEA and NCAE contributed $1.8 million to help Bev Perdue win the 2008 Governor’s race.
- NEA spent another $1.7 million on campaign ads for Bev Perdue.
NCAE holds as one of its core beliefs standing up for the rights of educators and educational causes and exercises this right through donating to education friendly candidates. The NCAE is performing duties in support of education within the confines of an authoritarian right to work state. If not for the attention NCAE draws when it organizes lobby days education issues may not be on the forefront as they are now. It is unfortunate that as NC law currently dictates the NCAE having a limited voice in management – workforce relations, at least NCAE can continue to be active within the political scene. Hopefully NCAE can work towards further legitimacy and gain status as a full fledged union once the political climate migrates more in favor of labor rights. It’s time NC realized its public employees should not be treated so poorly. If teachers were all given fair consideration by lawmakers instead of being looked upon as a taxation burden there would be such a need for unionization. Until attitudes change via the removal or retirement of leadership, it looks like union representation is a teacher’s best chance at gaining respect and a collective voice in the workplace. One must remember although the taxpayers cough up the money for education, the politicians decide how to spend it and don’t always follow the will of the people. Also, even though I work for the state that does not mean I do not have legitimate grievances and concerns. I refuse to simply roll over and allow the state to do what they will. A better education system with high morale among teachers helps the state.
In fact, I am a proponent of a state employees union with different sections for various public sector professions but it seems as though the only obstacle in NC unionizing is the antiquated right to work law. The state is already balancing pay and benefits against other areas while some of those other areas often have a great amount of pull while teachers get the short end of the stick. Having a union does not mean that you get what you want but rather it means that you have some leverage to balance the power dynamics between management and labor. As some may suggest, teachers who are in favor of unionization are simply being selfish, greedy and are more focused on self preservation than educating children. Nobody goes into teaching for selfish reasons or because the pay and benefits are so great. The reality is that until North Carolina affords union rights to public sector workers, teacher will continue to be pawns pushed around by politicians and by some members of the public who have no experience or reference for what is like to be a teacher and think teachers already have an overpaid and cushy job.
Bejan, W. (2011, July 05). Wisconsin union battle: framing the debate in north carolina?. Retrieved from http://www.nccivitas.org/2011/wisconsin-union-battle-framing-the-debate-in-north-carolina/
Godard, John (2011). Industrial Relations, the econo Ontario: Captus Press Inc.
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Luebke, B. (2011, May 03). Ncae: Looking out for children, members, or itself?. Retrieved from http://www.nccivitas.org/2011/ncae-looking-out-for-children-members-or-itself/
National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. (2010). Right to work states: north carolina . Retrieved from http://www.nrtw.org/c/ncrtwlaw.htm
NCAE. (2011). Core value, mission and vision. Retrieved from http://www.ncae.org/cms/Who We Are/2.htm
NCAE. (2011). Ncae take action. Retrieved from http://capwiz.com/nea/nc/issues/alert/?alertid=50551501&type=CU&show_alert=1
Perez, F. (2011, June 16). North carolina legislators vote to override gov perdue’s budget veto. Retrieved from http://www.educationvotes.nea.org/2011/06/16/north-carolina-legislators-vote-to-override-gov-purdues-budget-veto/
Right-to-work law. (2011, November 10). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 23:26, November 17, 2011, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Right-to-work_law&oldid=460023487