Who says we don’t have a union?

We’re a union just by saying so.

When I moved to North Carolina during the summer of 2017, one of the first things that I was told was that since we were a right to work state we did not have unions. I accepted this at face value for the vast majority of my first year in the state. I spent a lot of that time living in fear. While I had good relationships with the people in my school building, I still felt like I was living in a culture of fear because there was nothing bigger behind me. Coming to North Carolina from New Jersey, that was a part of teaching that I did not expect as teachers in New Jersey benefit from NJEA which is quite strong.

May 16th changed a lot of things for me.

From little Lee County, I saw school district after school district shut down. I saw thousands of teachers and other public school advocates flood the streets of Raleigh, demanding better for our students.

I was inspired. I was also surprised. If we did not have a union that how the heck did May 16th happen? I would be remiss if I did not recognize the work that groups such as North Carolina Teachers United (NCTU) and Red4EdNC did to get advocates out on May 16th, but I also realized that NCAE was our union in North Carolina.

Anti-union activists will say that unionizing is illegal in North Carolina. That is false. While NCAE and other labor groups do not have collective bargaining, those groups are still unions. They still bring people together for a purpose.

This year NCAE’s common purpose is in the form of fighting for five goals:

▪ Provide enough school librarians, psychologists, social workers, counselors, nurses, and other health professionals to meet national standard,

▪ Provide $15 minimum wage for all school personnel, 5 percent raise for all school employees and a 5 percent cost of living adjustment for retirees.

▪ Expand Medicaid to improve the health of our students and families.

▪ Reinstate state retiree health benefits for teachers who will be hired after 2021.

▪ Restore extra pay for teachers with advanced degrees such as a master’s degree.

I am a big fan of the musical, Newsies, and I cannot help but feel that some of the themes in that show are applicable to our situation in North Carolina. When thinking about our fight in North Carolina I think about the song from that show, The World Will Know. North Carolina teachers, here’s a shorten version for us.

JACK:
Berger and Moore, they think we’re nothing’. Are we nothin’?

TEACHERS:
No!

JACK:
Berger and Moore, they think they got us. Do they got us?

TEACHERS :
No!

JACK:
Even though we ain’t collective bargaining, we’re a union just by saying so.
And the state will know. What’s it gonna take to stop the bleeding? Are we ready?

TEACHERS :
Yeah!

JACK:
What’s it gonna take to stop the starving? Can we do it?

TEACHERS :
Yeah!

JACK:
We’ll do what we gotta do until we break the will of mighty Phil and Tim.

TEACHERS :
And the state will know. And the counties too.

JACK & DAVEY:
Mister Berger and Tim, have we got news for you.

TEACHERS :
See, the state don’t know know, but they’re gonna pay.

JACK & DAVEY:
‘Stead of teachin’ history we’ll be makin’ it today.

TEACHERS :
And our ranks will grow,

CRUTCHIE:
And we’ll kick their rear!

TEACHERS :
And the state will know that we been here.

JACK:
When the school bell starts ringing, will we hear it?

TEACHERS :
No!

JACK:
What if the privatizer’s come out swinging? Will we hear it?

TEACHERS:
When ya got a hundred voices singing, who can hear a lousy bell blow?
And state will know that this ain’t no game,
That we got a ton of knowledge and perfect aim.
So they gave their word. Well, it ain’t worth beans.
Now they’re gonna see what “Close the schools” really means.

Ladies and gentlemen. We are a union just by saying so. Get your personal days in for May 1st. Feel scared? You have thousands of teachers standing behind you.

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