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Lipstick on a Union Pig

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

For some strange reason, some union activists prefer their organizations be referred to as “associations,” as opposed to unions. That's odd, given that the National Education Association has grabbed the union mantle with both hands, and the American Federation of Teachers adopted the slogan "A union of professionals." That seems like an oxymoron, but I suppose it makes them feel good when they run the letterhead through their laser printer.


So color me humored when Marc Severson, blogging as the "Tired Tucson Teacher" (that inspires parents to request him for their kids, I'm sure...) attempted to explain, "It's an association, not a union."

"Let me start by saying I have been a member of AEA/NEA and my local association since the first hour of my student teaching. I refused to walk into the classroom without being a member. You might say I bleed association red.

"My reasons for belonging are numerous but suffice to say, the most important one is that as a professional I believe it is concomitant upon me to belong to my professional organization."

It goes on from there. Strangely, he never actually defines the difference between a union and an association, and I hate to break it to Marc, but he belongs to a brass-tacks, take-no-prisoners union. He can put as much lipstick and perfume on that pig as he wants, but the thing still oinks and jumps in the mud.

There's nothing professional about the NEA or AFT. They have never cared much about teacher quality until recently, when they realized that politicians from both parties are demanding it. And they haven't cared much about the quality of the educational system, or responsiveness to parents' and students' needs, until recently. And that’s only because more Americans are waking up to the fact that we have islands of public education success in a sea of failure.


What they have cared about, of course, is keeping health insurance deductibles low, premium co-pays low and pension systems funded with scant little teacher buy-in. And they have always been concerned about tenured teachers having a job for life, and teachers being judged by length of service rather than quality of work.

Those aren't the actions of a professional organization or a voluntary association. Those are the actions of a union looking out for its members. Severson would be wise to acknowledge that fact and seek to do something about that, before the lipstick wears off and even he sees the pig for what it is.

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