REPORT: Pennsylvania Teachers Vote to Kick Union Out of Their School

Tides Change as Teachers Choose Different Path
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As a result of tens of millions of dollars of political spending, heavy resistance to reopening schools during the COVID-19 pandemic, and repeated efforts to label concerned parents as domestic terrorists, teachers unions have come under increasing public scrutiny. And that scrutiny is not limited to the general public, as teachers at one Pennsylvania charter school have decided that they want nothing to do with their union. 

On Thursday morning, teachers at the Westinghouse Arts Academy Charter School in Wilmerding, Pennsylvania voted 12-11 to remove the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) as their exclusive representative. The action stemmed from increasing tensions between Westinghouse staff and the PSEA. Allegedly, the PSEA failed to secure a new contract for Westinghouse’s teachers, and used kids as a negotiating tactic by pressuring Westinghouse’s teachers to stop after-school tutoring sessions. This is not the first time the two entities have butted heads, as the local teachers union lobbied against Westinghouse’s initial approval back in 2017. 

“It’s extremely rare to see teachers win against a powerful union like PSEA, which dominates schools across Pennsylvania,” David Osborne, who is the CEO of Americans for Fair Treatment, and currently representing the teacher who asked for the election to oust the union, said in a press release. “But it shouldn’t be that way – PSEA rarely delivers on its promises to teachers and should be held accountable. Because the odds are stacked against employees and in favor of union officials in so many ways, it takes a concerted effort to do what’s right. The teachers at Westinghouse are fighters; they overcame a lot to get here.”

Westinghouse’s teachers are not the only ones abandoning unions. In 2018, the Supreme Court ruled in Janus v. AFSCME that teachers can retain their positions without being a member of a union. While union membership did not change initially, teachers unions experienced dramatic losses after the 2020-2021 school year. The National Education Association lost nearly 60,000 members, or 2.3% of its total membership, while the American Federation of Teachers lost slightly under 22,000 members, or 2.1% of its total membership. Early indicators show that the exodus from teachers unions has continued into the 2021-2022 school year, particularly in Pennsylvania

“Teachers’ unions’ real problem is that they overplayed their hand with their forced school lockdowns,” said Hunter Tower, the Pennsylvania director of the Freedom Foundation. “Parents actually had the opportunity to hear what propaganda their children were being spoon-fed because it was streaming into their living rooms, and they were appalled by what they learned. Parents started speaking out, and their voices became louder and louder until they reached viral status across the country.”

Garion Frankel
Garion Frankel is a graduate student at Texas A&M University’s Bush School of Government and Public Service with a concentration in education policy and management. He is a Young Voices contributor, and Chalkboard Review’s breaking news reporter.

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