Perceptions Of Representational Efficacy In Local And National Teacher Unions

Steven Lash


While the majority of teachers are affiliated with a union, the quality of representation is unclear. Historically, trade unions have served as a medium for workers to collectively interact with management and, thus, they have served as the primary means of communication between two entities. However, management is diverse for educators; both local administrators and national politicians alike are able to influence a teacher’s work. Teachers rely on unions not only for contract negotiation within their own districts, but as an advocate on national educational issues, such as the recent No Child Left Behind Act (2002, as cited in National Education Association [NEA], 2005). The ability for unions to represent affiliates on this broad spectrum occurs through the division of local and national representation. Modern educational unions have become increasingly involved with professional and educational concerns, in addition to the traditional industrial issues of pay and benefits. Kerchner and Caufman (1993a) termed this shift, “professional unionism†(p. 19) and defined the new role of the union as balancing the self-interests of teachers with the larger interests of the profession as a whole. They suggested that union leaders take a more cooperative role with all levels of management, and that this, in turn, benefits individual members. “First, unions are discarding beliefs about the inherent separateness of labor and management, teaching and administration†(p. 9).