By using the example of our own Oregon Education Association (OEA), I’ll briefly explain the function of teachers unions in our education system.
OEA comprises more than 45,000 educators (teachers and specialists, community
college faculty, and retired teachers). They are in partnership with Local Associations, which
is an organization that champions the right of all students in Oregon to have a quality public
The current president of OEA is Gail Rasmussen, a veteran of the Eagle Point School
District. Her promotion to President marks the first time that an African-American woman has
held the position. The current vice-president is Johanna Vaandering, a former PE teacher from
the Beaverton School District.
OEA is affiliated with the National Education Association (NEA), the larger, more
inclusive teachers union.
The NEA’s main role is to protect teachers’ rights and pay. This has brought them some
criticism from people who think that they are more concerned with the teachers than with the
students. In the 2000s, they devoted much of their resources to lobbying for change in the No
Child Left Behind Act. They have generally supported candidates from the Democratic Party.
Despite receiving some negative press for their seemingly biased opinions, they counter by
saying that, on the whole, they agree with the left wing plans for education more than the right.
These days, teachers unions have been cast in a negative light. Strikes in Chicago have
brought the news closer to home, and much political controversy has been stirred because of it.
1. How do we make sure that teachers unions are truly concerned with the well-bring of the
students instead of the teachers’ job security?
2. Do you agree that teachers unions should have as substantial a role in politics as they do?
3. If it came down to it, would you support the teachers unions if they advocated for a strike
to protect their wages?