The perils are obvious. The predicted loss of revenue will mean diminished capacity for the unions and will likely translate into diminished influence and power at the federal, state, and local levels as well as within the Democratic Party. Teachers’ unions have been a potent force in all of these quarters. In the eyes of some, the unions have been a regressive, conservative (as in status quo-oriented), anti-reform force in the field. In the eyes of most of their members and some of the public, they have done an admirable job of standing up for teachers individually and collectively, bringing the voice and expertise of practitioners to the policy table, and assuring fair, middle-class compensation for members.
There has never been any doubt that teachers need a voice and protection in the education sector. Teaching has long been an exploited, overworked, and undercompensated field. The advent of teachers’ associations in the 20th century signaled an end to some of the most egregious violations of fair treatment by education managers. The unions stood tall and insisted on fairness and equity. Even today in states where unions have already been disempowered by “right to work” state laws that prohibit unions from charging fees from nonmembers, teachers have taken to the streets. In places like West Virginia and Oklahoma, teachers have organized outside of conventional unions in “wildcat Facebook” fashion and have become a potent, successful movement for fair compensation and better funding for schools.