WEA Fourth Corner | Why Union?
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Why Union?

There are a large number of reasons as to why membership in your union is highly valuable. Below are just a few…

Economics and Bargaining

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In Fourth Corner, our local units bargain assertively. As a result, in the overwhelming majority of cases, your union dues are paid for the rest of your career after your first year’s gain. Let’s explain:

  • Using a $50,000 base salary as an example, imagine in Year 1 of your contract you receive a 2% increase. ($1,000, or roughly annual dues for certificated staff.)
  • In Year 2, your combined base and TRI is now $51,000–that is, the initial 2% increase is now built into your earnings. It doesn’t go away. As such, every subsequent increase is directly in your pocket. Every year!

Think of the value of assertive bargaining to your career earnings. The difference between an educator in a unit which bargains assertively and one who does not can amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars in career earnings! And that doesn't even consider retirement! Bargain assertively.

Full Contracts

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As a WEA member, every element of your on-the-job life is covered under the collective bargaining agreement, which is built over the course of bargaining. Although each contract is slightly different, contracts generally cover everything from administration of the contract, business matters, personnel issues such as the rights, responsibilities, authority and protection of teachers; assignments and transfers, salary and benefits, various leaves, general working conditions, evaluation rules, mediation and grievances and arbitrations and more.

Every member is entitled to a copy of their contract, where they can read in clear language the rules and conditions of their work. Although sometimes there can be slightly different interpretations, it is unlikely that a matter will come up that the collective bargaining agreement does not cover in some fashion.

Due Process and Just Cause

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Although you may never experience any trouble, you can feel secure in the knowledge that you will never be disciplined without the standards of just cause and due process having been met. A brief primer on the “seven tests of just cause”:

  • Was it a reasonable rule or order?
  • Was there clear and specific notice?
  • Was there a timely and thorough investigation?
  • Was there reasonable analysis?
  • Was there sufficient proof?
  • Was there equal treatment?
  • Is there a fair and consistent application?

No matter what happens on the job, you are protected under just cause and due process.

Most of the country is considered under what is called at-will employment. This means that you can be disciplined--up to and including termination--for ANY reason. Good cause, bad cause, no cause. Maybe your admin got out of the wrong side of bed that day and didn't like something you said. Or maybe you are a veteran educator at the higher end of the pay scale, and the district desires to replace you with someone younger at the bottom of the pay scale. Under at-will, they are completely free to do this. But they are not free to do this to WEA members under our contract.

Professional Development, Professional Voice

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Your membership entitles you to have a voice in determining your salary, benefits, working conditions, and important policies. Don’t take it for granted! As your exclusive employee bargaining agent under the collective bargaining laws in Washington, the Association is there to make sure you are an equal partner in making decisions that affect your job and your profession. Your locally elected leaders and our highly skilled UniServ Directors are on call to personally make sure your rights are protected.

Have you ever been in a district or ESD-provided training? How did it go? Have you ever been in a WEA-provided training, taught by peers who understand your questions and concerns? As a member of WEA, you are able to access our professional development network around the state--keep educating yourself on topics such as evaluation training, Common Core standards, Special Education safety, WA AIM test administration and more. We can even find you a mentor if there is a special area you need help with.

Political Influence

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Because virtually every decision that affects education is made in the political arena, the Association employs lobbyists who work year-round to ensure that the needs of students, schools, and school employees are heard. But our involvement doesn’t stop there. Using money voluntarily collected from our members, association volunteers get actively involved in campaigns to help elect candidates to office who vote for pro-public education legislation.

Here's what our ``politics`` look like: improving school funding on the state level (WEA members launched the successful McCleary school funding court case in 2008); improving school funding on the local level (WEA members were the primary funders and volunteers to amend the state constitution to require a simple majority for passage of school levies, which provide nearly a third of all school funding in Washington); smaller class sizes via outlets such as Initiative 1351; charter schools (WEA led the coalition that successfully overturned the unconstitutional charter school law that diverted funding from public schools); defending the profession, such as fighting against the mandated use of test scores in evaluations--the only state to do so; and public awareness, such as the one-day walkouts in 2015 against the legislature--more than 45,000 members participated!

Liability Protection

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With your membership comes a $1 million Educators Employment Liability insurance policy which protects against civil proceedings brought against you in job-related matters. What’s more, you will be reimbursed to cover attorney fees and other legal costs if you are exonerated of criminal charges.

Some may try to mislead you and tell you that you are covered by liability insurance of the school district that you work in–which is only true in the event that they are trying to protect themselves from liability. In contrast, the Association provides you with the liability insurance, regardless of what position the district is in.

Hopefully, you never have to utilize this benefit. But it is there, in the case that you ever do need it!

Top-Notch Legal Representation

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In addition to your $1 million in liability coverage, you may also have access to legal representation by WEA’s in-house attorneys for any job-related problem you might encounter. WEA’s attorneys are leading experts in labor law. They work exclusively on behalf of Association members. For non-employment related matters, you can take advantage of the WEA/NEA Attorney Referral Program which offers you discounts on the services of specially selected attorneys across the state. No other group has this level of expertise in dealing with school employees’ unique problems.

Whatever the issue, whether disciplinary or contract administration or interpretation, you can bet that your district will have lawyers doing their bidding. So do you.

Strength in Numbers

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When you belong to the Association, you join forces with nearly 80,000 of your colleagues in Washington, and more than 3.2 million members nationwide. That strong membership base gives us the strength, power, and resources to accomplish more together than any individual or small group can do alone.

The most gains (economic and otherwise) are made when local units are the most unified as they can be. There is an incredible amount of power in numbers.

Other Member Benefits through NEAMB

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WEA has affiliated with NEA Member Benefits to provide cost-saving benefits and services for you and your family, in the areas of finance, insurance, everyday discounts, travel, classroom resources, professional development, and more! Learn more about what you may be missing at http://neamb.org.

You're a member! Go check out what types of things you can get discounts on. It's a huge variety!