Real purpose of teachers unions is 'to protect the interests of adults, not of students'
In the East Lansing Public Schools, the teachers' contract states that their weekly pupil contact time is 25 hours and 25 minutes and teachers may not supervise lunch period or more than one recess a week.
In Huron Valley Schools, elementary teachers may not have more than five hours, 21 minutes of daily instructional time. In St. Joseph Public Schools, teachers may not be required to collect lunch or milk money. The Flint teachers’ contract requires a teacher’s day be no longer than 6 hours and 57 minutes.
The Michigan Education Association promotes a “work-to-rule” approach as one form of work action, which is when a teacher only does exactly what is defined in the contract and no more.
The MEA’s strike manual states: “Understand that a local is limited only by its collective imagination when it comes to specific work-to-rule actions. If you carefully examine your contract you will probably find a number of work-to-rule opportunities. Keep in mind, however, that you don’t want to violate the contract or past practice; you want to adhere to it … exactly!”
Michael Van Beek, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s director of education policy, found many clauses in teachers’ contracts that were very specific regarding teachers’ responsibilities.
For example, elementary school teachers in Wayne-Westland district would leave five minutes after the conclusion of the school day. It was 10 minutes for high/middle school teachers.
“It’s clauses like these in union contracts that exemplify the real purpose of unionization in public schools — it’s to protect the interests of adults, not of students," Van Beek said. "Fortunately, many good teachers ignore these union-imposed work rules, but if union leaders ever forced strict adherence, the impact on student learning would be entirely negative.”
The MEA hasn’t responded to an email asking for comment about its strike manual.