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What Do Unions Do?

What Do Unions Do?

The job of ESP (Educational Support Professional) is a professional occupation. ESPs normally have organized ESP's Unions. Most, but not all of the ESP’s join the union. Yet, many people do not know what our USC ESP's Union is or does. This article addresses that question, and explains a bit about our Union. Read on to learn of some information about the USC ESP's Union.

Purpose of the USC ESPs' Unions

The purpose of the USC ESP's union is generally to be a strong, unified advocating body for Educational Support Professionals. Unions advocate for ESPs, but have an interest in the functioning of the overall education system. Unions are comprised of professionals deeply interested in, and passionate about Education. Through the strength of their numbers, Unions are also able to provide a wealth of resources to their members that members would usually otherwise not be able to afford. These resources alone are perhaps reason enough to join the union, since access to many wonderful tools would otherwise not be possible or cost- effective without the union.


National Education Association (NEA) – The largest educational union in the United States. They are typically referred to as democratic in their ideology. It was formed in 1857. 

Some of the many members that comprise the National Education Association include education support professionals, higher education professionals, retired educators, students and substitute teachers as well. School administrators are also included. Therefore, this is an enormous organization participating members from various specialized backgrounds.

The National Education Association offers many benefits for membership. For instance, they have online lesson plans, grants and awards and are involved in advancement of professional pay issues. The National Education Association also offers practical advice for proper classroom management practices. There is also a program to help teachers find summer employment. Also, great books for teachers are reviewed and recommended in order to point teachers in the right direction for staying current with educational trends and information. The National Education Association presents a wealth of free tools by having a message board on their website that posts free tools for educators to use. Teachers can go there are get free things to use in their classroom


American Federation of Teachers (AFT)  – The second largest educational union in the United States. They are typically referred to as republican in their ideology. It was formed in 1916. 

It is possible to join the American Federation of Teachers if one works in a pre-K through grade twelve system, a university system, an early childhood center, a government office or a healthcare facility. Some of the stated goals of the American Federation of Teachers include the ability to make their voices heard and give members access to resources as well as to better working conditions for people in the education field. They also produce a magazine with information, resources and updates that goes out to members regularly.

The above article defines teachers unions and explains some of the benefits of joining teacher's unions. Two unions in particular, the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers are described in detail. It is beneficial for educators to join the union in order to obtain access to the many available union resources, but joining the union is not for everyone. It is up to each educator and education support professional to decide for themselves whether it is worth it for them personally to join the teacher's union.


At USC, when you join our union, you also become a member of both of the unions listed above.  


Why should you join the Union?

One decision that a new ESP is faced with is whether or not they should join a union. In some cases, it is actually not a choice at all. In eighteen states, it is essentially legal to force ESP’s to support a union by requiring ESP’s who are not members to pay a fee to a union as a condition of continued employment. Those states include Alaska,California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Washington, & Wisconsin.

In the other states, it becomes an individual choice as to whether you want to join a  union or not. There are many valid reasons that you should consider joining a union. Those can include:

  • Teachers/ESP unions can provide legal protection and advice. In today's sue happy society; this protection alone can be worth becoming a member.
  • Teachers/ESP unions provide support, guidance, and advice. Most teachers/ESP unions have a helpline that its members can call to seek advice in a variety of areas.
  • Teachers/ESP unions allow you a voice in hot educational trends, debates, and topics that you feel strongly about.
  • Joining a teacher/ESP union builds power to the bargaining position of the union for contract and labor negotiations.
  • Teachers/ESP unions provide several discount program opportunities including life insurance benefits, credit card opportunities, mortgage assistance, etc.
  • Teachers/ESP unions often provide terrific professional development opportunities for members.

Even if you live in a state where they cannot legally force your hand to join a union, you may find yourself being pressured to do so by other ESP’s.

This is because unions are a powerful entity. There is strength in numbers. The more members a union has, the bigger voice they have.