Without even going into detail with regards to the negative impact that Margaret Thatcher had on all unions in the England, and specifically trade unions, during her reign in the 1980s, Education Union Busting has become a fashionable phenomenon. Let us all hope that it is merely a passing fad. The following provides some North American context for the recent wave of union-busting and teacher-bashing.


In the United States of America, President Barack Obama's "Race to the Top" (RTTT or R2T) initiative was begun in 2009. In theory, it was conceived to guarantee quality schools and quality teachers for every child in the USA. It consisted of the US federal government awarding various states, through a complicated application process, with tax dollars dedicated to a number of initiatives (see below), including closing down schools in disrepair. However, in its practical applications, RTTT became a veritable Pandora's Box of problems for school districts, teacher unions and state governments.

With respect to teacher unions, the initiatives required at the state level by RTTT developed into seriously hot topics. State governments sought gains from teacher unions and teacher rights; they wished to bring about dramatic changes in teacher evaluation programs, introduce merit pay for teachers whose students performed well, base teacher evaluations on their students' performance on standardized tests, increase the number of privately-managed "charter schools," and close or restructure "failing" schools.

In New York State, this meant teacher unions giving up previously won battles with regards to teacher evaluation in order to allow the state government to submit a stronger application for the second round of RTTT grant. In California, the state government (and in particular, the Los Angeles school districts) wished to make the same gains, but the teacher unions resisted. The state was also attacking teacher seniority rights.

Erik Kain, in Forbes, more circumspectly addresses the reforms by asserting: "One problem we face is that our reform movement has become defined by a very specific, narrow set of ideas: choice and testing and tinkering with teacher compensation and benefits. Very little attention has been paid to curriculum, infrastructure, or equitable school funding."[1] Erik's entire article is worth the read; it is available at: http://www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2011/09/28/why-i-support-the-teachers-unions/

Some would say that the Obama agenda is not so much about improving education, but more about union busting. Activist Kit Wainer summarizes the situation by simply stating that "Teacher unions are under attack because they are one of the last bastions of organized labor."[2]


2007 - Ohio US (A Precursor Scenario)ohio.jpg

Two neighbouring teacher locals, mostly due to proposed sweeping management rights, were forced to strike. The school districts hired union-busting firms, spending hundreds of thousands of tax-payer dollars. These firms used scare-tactics and replacement workers in order to force the teachers to back down. In the end, due to the questionable hiring of some of the substitutes and growing community support for the teachers, the districts returned to bargaining, and the teacher locals made significant gains to their contracts.

Refer to the article at http://www.nea.org/home/31535.htm for more specific details.

2011 - Saskatchewan CA (A Sign of Things to Come)

sask-flag.jpgTeachers' contracts expired in August of 2010. With the province experiencing unprecedented growth, the STF requested that teachers be included in the province's new prosperity, asking for a 16.3% wage increase over three years in order to address generally low teacher salaries. The province countered with roughly 6% over that period of time.

In May 2011, after a two-day province-wide strike, teachers stopped participating in all voluntary services. On May 31st, a mediator was appointed, and negotiations between the STF and the Government-Trustee Bargaining Committee resumed. In September, with an arguably questionable vote of 66% in favour, teachers ratified the new agreement, which awarded them between 8.9% and 10.5% over three years.

(With information from: http://www.ipolitics.ca/2011/05/25/saskatchewan-teachers-launch-two-day-strike/, http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatchewan/story/2011/05/30/sask-teachers-strike.html and http://www.meridianbooster.com/2011/10/16/teachers-finally-hammer-out-a-new-contract.

2011 - British Columbia CA (The First Legislative Bill to Eliminate Legal Job Action)bc-flag.jpg

In June 2011, teacher contracts in the province expired. Teachers demanded a significant wage increase as well as changes to classroom conditions. In September of that same year, teachers began a work-to-rule campaign. In March 2012, teachers, with approval from the Labour Relations Board (LRB), walked off the job for three days. They were then legislated back to work by the government via Bill 22. In June 2012, teachers, with only a 52% turn-out for the vote, and only a 75% vote in favour (which works out to a mere 39% approval from the entire membership), approved a new deal with the government, which gave them improved benefits and seniority provisions, but no wage increases.

Subsequent to the settlement, the BCTF launched a petition with the BC Supreme Court, arguing that Bill 22 violated their Charter rights to collective bargaining. (Does this sound familiar, ETFO members?) Already, in April of 2011, the BC Supreme Court ruled that Bills 27 and 28 had violated the teachers' right to free collective bargaining. To date, there is still no resolution to the Supreme court challenge regarding Bill 22. However, in her decision regarding Bills 27 and 28, Madam Justice Griffin stated that "collective bargaining has long been seen as the best vehicle for resolving differences between management and labour."[3]

Information was gathered from the following web-sites: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/03/18/bc-teachers-strike_n_1358231.html, http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/bc-teachers-accept-new-contract-bringing-labour-peace/article4382755/, and

2011 - Wisconsin US (Some Side-Effects of RTTT)

Governor Scott Walker, in the face of an insurmountable deficit, launched a smear campaign, attacking the public sector by pitting tax-payers against the state's teachers. He affirmed that the lack of student performance no longer warranted the state cost of contributing to teachers' benefits and pension plans. When public workers demonstrated against the proposed measures, Walker threatened to bring in the National Guard.

Relevant information can be found at: http://uppitywis.org/blogarticle/timeline-scott-walkers-attacks-wisconsin-teachers , and at:
http://www.csmonitor.com/Commentary/Opinion/2011/0222/Wisconsin-unions-vs.-Governor-Walker-is-a-battle-for-the-soul-of-America .

2012 - Ontario CA (Ontario Tries Things the BC Way, but with a New Twist)ontario-flag.jpg

The attack on teachers and teacher unions begun by former Ontario Premier Mike Harris in the 1990s was resurrected by Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, Education Minister Laurel Broten and PC Opposition Leader Tim Hudak. In a brazen and historic move, teacher wages were frozen, their sick-leave banks were eliminated, their rights to strike and to local collective bargaining were removed, and the government began to back away from the Pension Plan. While a battle ensued in the public and through various media campaigns, "What teachers are most concerned about is that this is actually a [sic] union busting.
It is a way to end collective bargaining."[4]

Deborah Poole, a member of the Durham Teacher local developed a brief summary of the Bill 115 struggle in Ontario as apart of her practicum project. It makes for a chilling read.

2012 - Colorado US (Union-Busting Unrelated to RTTT)

By November 2011, the Douglas County Republican Party (GOP) had taken over all seats on the Douglas County School Board, and launched their attack on the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). The school board cut the funding for four full-time union release positions, and stopped collecting union dues on behalf of the AFT. Finally, in June of 2012, they refused to renew the contract with the union bargaining unit, and instead, offered individual contracts to every single teacher in the district. Salary was re-aligned to a "pay for performance" system, which the union said had nothing to do with a member's skill as a teacher and everything to do with content.

The superintendent framed this (unsurprisingly following the Republican line that liberal bias is at work in the nation's entrails) as follows:
"Once free of the union, Douglas County could experiment with free-market ideas that most conservative school board members—where they exist—only dream about. If its experiments go well, it offers a template both for propelling conservatives into education, which is largely a liberal playground even in K-12, and for what such leaders might do when they get there." In August of 2014 nearby Jefferson County, also with a GOP majority, hired a superintendent from Douglas County and implemented a similar pay schedule - ignoring an independent review that stated that the system was flawed.

Later that summer, the School Board even attempted a pilot voucher program that would have redirected public tax dollars to private schools. This was unusual in a nation where most voucher programs are in low-income areas; Douglas County is one of the most affluent in the entire country. However, in April 2013, two Democrats in the State House introduced House Bill 1257, which would force School Boards to resume negotiations with union locals, specifically regarding teacher evaluation programs. HB-1257 states that "if any evaluation systems are introduced and the teachers union or association is not consulted, the district must use the State Model System for evaluation – again contrary to the spirit of local control."[5] The program was immediately put on hold while lawyers for both sides debated the impact of such a program on public education. A ruling from the state's top court regarding the legality of the system is expected in 2015.

More information may be found at:
http://www.redstate.com/pwatson/2013/04/23/colorado-house-pursues-backdoor-expansion-of-teachers-union-power/ ,


The conservative publication The Federalist lays out the motivation, strategies, and the GOP loathing for unionism in this article:

2012 - Alberta CA (An Only Partially-Imposed Provincial Agreement -- Middle Ground?)alberta_flag.png

The Alberta Teachers' Association's (ATA) previous contract expired in August of 2012. In May of 2013, the province used legislation (the Assurance for Students Act) to impose a new four-year collective agreement. This proceeded despite a few hold-outs, including the Calgary Board of Education, and the St. Albert and Elk Island teacher locals. Specifics of the "deal" include a three-year wage freeze followed by a 2% increase in the last year of the agreement, along with a government review of teacher workload.

(There have been no local contracts since 2007, the first time that the Alberta government negotiated a province-wide deal.)

For more details, please visit: http://globalnews.ca/news/558442/alberta-moves-to-legislate-province-wide-teachers-deal/
  1. ^ Kain, Erik. "Why I Support the Teachers Unions." http://www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2011/09/28/why-i-support-the-teachers-unions/. 28 April 2013.
  2. ^ Wainer, Kit Adam. "Obama's RTTT vs. Teacher Unions," Against the Current. n.148, Sept.-Oct. 2010.
  3. ^ Griffin, Madam Justice ?. "BC Supreme Court rules legislation removing teachers' bargaining rights unconstitutional," National Union of Public and General Employees.
    http://www.nupge.ca/content/4211/bc-supreme-court-rules-legislation-removing-bargaining-rights-teachers-unconstitutional. 14 Apr 2011.
  4. ^

    Hill, Paul. "Teachers targets of Union Busting." The Orillia Packet. http://www.orilliapacket.com/2012/08/20/teachers-targets-of-union-busting. 28 April 2013.
  5. ^

    Watson, Precious. "Colorado House Pursues Backdoor Expansion of Teachers Union Power," Redstate. http://www.redstate.com/pwatson/2013/04/23/colorado-house-pursues-backdoor-expansion-of-teachers-union-power/, 8 May 2013.