Voices from the Idaho EdNews Community

Require fair union election procedures

Cindy Omlin

There is a new law allowing school districts to request proof from the teachers union that it has the majority needed to qualify as the teachers’ exclusive bargaining representative. In essence, a union would have to prove that teachers actually want its representation. To this end, representative elections are likely now taking place all over the state.

At present, in order to comply with this law, the teachers union is allowed to conduct “card check” elections in which union representatives gather the signatures of both union and nonunion teachers on cards giving it the authority to bargain on their behalf. If the union gets the majority, it receives the privilege of bargaining for all teachers, both union and nonunion.

The legitimacy of “card check” elections is dubious, however. This type of “election” is conducted by union representatives with a clear stake in the outcome. Not only does the procedure threaten the intent of the law to ensure good faith bargaining, there is the potential for pressure tactics and the lack of ballot privacy to cause fear, anger and hard feelings among teachers who need to work well together for the sake of their students.

To increase the authenticity of representation elections and to foster trust, mutual respect, and effective collaboration among teachers, teachers are encouraged to demand and school boards are encouraged to require fair and free election procedures that will result in a valid proof of majority vote.

Suggested procedures include requiring that elections:

  1. allow multiple representation options, e.g., an Idaho Education Association (IEA) affiliate, a “local only” teacher association not affiliated with the IEA, or none at all;
  2. be conducted using secret ballots; and,
  3. are coordinated by a mutually agreed upon independent third party, such as an accounting firm, that would be responsible for ballot distribution, collection, and counting, and verification of election results.

Exclusive bargaining for all teachers imposes a union negotiated contract on all teachers whether they agree with it or not. At the minimum, teachers deserve to know that their bargaining representative can negotiate in good faith because it has been genuinely elected according to procedures that provide freedom from intimidation, namely, a secret ballot election conducted by an independent party.

This law was enacted to ensure that teachers are represented in good faith. We owe it to our beloved educators to give them a fair vote.


Cindy Omlin

Cindy Omlin is the executive director of Northwest Professional Educators, an organization that provides teacher liability insurance, legal services, and support. NWPE offers teachers in Washington, Idaho, and Oregon an alternative to joining a union.

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