Our Union, Our Voice
Our union is a group of workers coming together on the job to win better conditions and ultimately make decisions on how the power within our school should be organized. Our union is based on the realization that a just school system can only be built by us, the ones that do the work. Every time we act in solidarity as a union, we are one step closer to making the concept of a hierarchy obsolete, and in the meantime we make a bit more progress towards taking care of our needs.
Our work can be mentally, physically and emotionally exhausting and leave lasting trauma. We have got to ask ourselves: if we sacrifice so much of our well-being to teach students and support clients, why are we rarely included in the decision making process at our school? Since we are the ones at the center of realizing our school’s purpose, mission, and daily operations, why are we treated as expendable? If we are told to believe in collective responsibility, meaningful feedback, and accountability, then why is our school so undemocratic?
Our experience shows that asking this question usually results in lip service rather than change. Worse yet, if we act individually there is a real fear that asking such questions may result in termination. Asking our boss for change by yourself is not only ineffective but dangerous. What reason do they have to listen to just one of us? Now, imagine that same scenario but with ten, fifteen, or thirty workers cooperating, acting together, towards a common purpose. By organizing a union we can leverage the power we have as the heart of our school. For this reason, we stand together and maintain our pressure from below. We turn our problems into demands, follow up demands with actions, and use the strength of our numbers to win what we need and what our staff and students rightfully deserve.
Driven by donor and funding requirements, revenue objectives, and calculated dispassionate benchmarks, our management represents only their own interests. But by joining into a union, we’re not only getting a seat at the decision making table for ourselves, but also for our students and their families.
Our union is horizontally structured as a “rank and file” organization. Simply put, there is no single leader or “boss.” All business is handled through direct democracy with the experience, advice, and solidarity of all the other workers in the union backing us up. Each worker has one vote and no vote carries more weight than any other. All members vote on what issues to campaign on, actions to take, and how and when to form sub-groups within our union. So, all terms of our demands and actions come from all of the workers that they will affect. All negotiations will be led by us and our co-workers; this way all of our issues may be discussed. A simple majority decides the course of action.
Finally, what happens if we do not organize? Our issues will continue to be addressed in fruitless one on one meetings, surveys, and black box feedback collections. We will continuously be worked to the point of burn out until you quit, and be made to feel that the burden of responsibility lies on you. Without the power to change working conditions, we cannot be our best for ourselves or for the students we love and cherish. We will not get the respect and recognition we deserve. Our love for our students, our community, and our fellow workers means we owe it to one another to organize!
We know that true education is a team effort between every worker at our school, students, and their families. With a union we’ll be able to unite around the reforms our school desperately needs now, and create a lasting systemic way for everyone to be heard.