One plus for teaching and unions

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Apparently Gillian Anderson, otherwise known as FBI Special Agent Dana Scully in the X-Files, was offered only half the pay of her co-star, David Duchovny, both in the past and in the present. She has negotiated improvements, but Gillian still got slammed with the reality of unequal pay between genders.

I’d like to note one positive aspect of teaching, as it was traditionally practiced: The union contract took into account how much education a teacher had finished and how many years he or she had worked. That determined teacher pay. Women with 2 years experience and 50 credits beyond a bachelor’s degree received exactly the same pay as men with the same credentials. You might make extra money by coaching or sponsoring a club, especially at the high school level, but overall men and women could expect to receive the same compensation. If a woman needed maternity leave, she was not crippling her career by taking two months off, either.

As politicians crow about their success in breaking unions, I’d like to point out that the highly unusual fairness in compensation in teaching has been a direct result of union negotiations. Those same negotiations helped provide retirement packages that did not differ by gender. They made taking time off to care for elderly parents “safe” in the sense that your job did not disappear from under you because mom slipped and fell or dad had a heart attack. Yes, federal laws are supposed to protect family and maternity leaves, but those laws don’t apply to many positions in today’s economy and employers still find ways to marginalize employees whose family situations demand time away from the job.

I have taught school and worked in the corporate world. One difference between the two that I never thought about much until tonight: In the corporate world, women sometimes hide pregnancies for as long as possible. In the teaching world, the news spreads months before anyone could guess. Teachers can share their good news without fear.