A LETTER FROM A PUBLIC SCHOOL TEACHER
Angela Bina is a Spokane, Washington teacher. She moved to Washington a year ago after having taught 18 years in Wisconsin. WEA (Washington Education Association) is sharing her letter.
Thank you. It’s the least I can say, and the very least I can do. I’ve missed the sense of belonging and unity that you bring. I miss being “one” with my colleagues.
I’ve been “separate” for too long, having to ask if my colleagues are members or potential members. I’ve missed the certainty and clarity which comes with a Master Agreement. An employee handbook just does not cut it, especially when it can be changed at will.
You see, I’m from Wisconsin. I taught there 18 years, and lived through the disastrous 2011 year. I led my local union, watched us bleed members, and tried to keep us afloat as best I could.
I was ready to leave, but didn’t exactly want to give up the fight, until my family got an offer that we truly could not refuse. So I moved to Washington.
Last week I sat in a new teacher’s meeting and received a beautiful spiral-bound copy of the union’s Master Agreement with the school district. I didn’t expect to feel the way I did. But here’s my reaction:
I WAS RELIEVED. I felt this HUGE weight drop off my shoulders. As I paged through the agreement, my happiness continued to build. Prep Time: guaranteed. Class size: guaranteed. Stipends: guaranteed.
Things we lost in Wisconsin were now guaranteed to me in this agreement. I couldn’t believe my fortune. I couldn’t believe how I got used to not having those guarantees—though I never forgot, it was just a part of my teaching life then.
My heart is still with the local I belonged to and led in Wisconsin. I have many dear friends who are still there, who are still fighting the good fight. Many who are still living it, in the district I came from and in other districts as well. I still see my local and state association bleeding members and it makes me extremely sad.
DON’T GIVE UP. IT’S WORTH IT. You are worth the fight for guaranteed salary, prep time, class size, and anything else that makes your work environment tolerable. You might feel deflated and you may get tired of fighting, but don’t stop.
Join your local and don’t look back. Move forward and help make your workplace better.
With much love and respect, Angela Bina