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Your options for workplace representation in Pennsylvania schools

If you are a public school teacher or support staff, there are three options for workplace representation available:

1. The PSEA or AFT-PA

This is the current situation for nearly all public school teachers, where you are a member of either the NEA/PSEA or AFT/AFT-PA. These massive corporate unions work through what’s called a “unified dues” system. That is, if you’re a member of your local union, you are also automatically a member of the state affiliate (the PSEA or AFT-PA) AND the national organization (the NEA or AFT). You cannot be a member of just your local. If you dislike this situation, you can change it—keep reading for your other two options.

2. An Independent Local

You probably appreciate your local union and colleagues, and the hard work they do in representing you. There is a way to support them and continue having labor representation. It’s called creating an independent local union. This will involve your local union leaving the NEA/PSEA or AFT/AFT-PA in a process called disaffiliation, and keeping your current leaders under a new union name. Alternatively, you can ask the state to hold a workplace election and vote in a new union with new leaders.

Benefits of an independent local union:

  1. 100% of your union dues stay in your school district or other education workplace, compared to roughly 5% now. 1
  2. Educators are more likely to join than not, because they appreciate a union that focuses on local education spending, teacher pay, and professional development rather than national partisan politics.
  3. Educators save hundreds of dollars each year because they’ve cut out the middleman—the expensive bureaucracy of state and national unions.
  4. Same services: being local and independent does not mean educators have to lose either professional liability insurance or legal assistance. A local can offer the first and keep a labor attorney on retainer to guide contract negotiations and enforcement.
  5. In a unified dues structure, a teacher is just one among hundreds of thousands. In a local independent union, each member’s voice is magnified, so teachers become much more engaged in running their union.

Is this option real?! YES. In the last five years, educators in at least 11 school districts nationwide have made the break:

3. Non union professional organization (leave existing union)

Teachers who are not interested in joining a union can still get liability insurance, grievance representation, and other educator support through non-union professional organizations such as the American Association of Educators (AAE) or the Keystone Teachers Association (KEYTA). AAE and KEYTA have provided discount codes to Free to Teach members for your first year of membership. Please contact us at info@freetoteach.org if you are interested in learning more.

Information on how to resign your union membership is available here.

For information on how to pursue these options, please contact us at Info@FreetoTeach.org or 833-969-FAIR (3247).

  1. 1 Figure calculated using Conewago Valley Education Association dues in 2018-19 as an example.
  2. 2 CCEA new member booklet, p. 2, https://new.ccea-nv.org/flipbook/ccea-member/member.html#p=1.
  3. 3 Free to Teach, “For Ohio teachers, going ‘local-only’ has meant happier educators and a better work environment,” June 11, 2019, https://www.freetoteach.org/for-ohio-teachers-going-local-only-has-meant-happier-educators-and-a-better-work-environment/.

Got questions? We’re here to help!

Contact Free to Teach at 833-969-FAIR (3247) or Info@FreetoTeach.org