Education International
Education International

Expression of Solidarity with US Public Employees by Fred van Leeuwen, EI General Secretary

published 18 February 2011 updated 22 March 2011

On behalf of Education International, the Global Union Federation representing 30 million teachers and education workers through 396 member organisations in 171 countries and territories, I express our concern over Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s budget bill to strip 175,000 state employees, including teachers, of collective bargaining rights.

EI supports its affiliates in the United States, NEA and AFT, in their vigorous campaign to fight this regressive legislation in Wisconsin and in Ohio, Idaho, Indiana and elsewhere.

The proposal to restrict bargaining rights for teacher unions and eliminate dues check-off is an opportunistic frontal attack on workers’ rights. The new legislation would also require workers to cover more of their health care and pension plans, and would request unions to conduct costly annual votes to maintain certification.

This short-sighted Bill would not only damage the livelihoods and job security of thousands of workers and their families but would also undermine the quality and cohesion of public services.

The International Labour Organisation recognises collective bargaining as an essential means through which workers and their organizations may promote and defend their economic and social interests. The ILO jurisprudence related to implementation of fundamental Convention 98 states that“All public service workers should enjoy collective bargaining rights”. The USA is a long-standing member of the ILO and is therefore requested to comply with the principles of the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, which guarantees the right to collective bargaining.

EI was founded on the fundamental principle that organised educators and professionals could more effectively professionalize both their work and their workplaces. Public employees achieve greater dignity and deliver the highest-quality services to children, the public and the community as a part of a union.

Education unions worldwide advocate for strong, independent and representatives teacher unions building the future through quality education, the theme of EI’s 6th World Congress. Strong education unions believe in building a collaborative relationship with education stakeholders to help craft innovative education policies and reforms improving student achievement.

Earlier in 2009, EI and its affiliates worldwide supported the Employee Free Choice Act because a strong economy and public services depend on workers being given the opportunity to join a trade union and to bargain collectively.

Today, EI invites the Wisconsin authorities and for that matter all States to engage in comprehensive and sustainable dialogue with the teacher organisations to enable an environment in which the fundamental rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining are guaranteed. As a prominent member of the international community, the United States of America should uphold well-established rules of international law.

EI reiterates its full support with the US educators and their trade union organisations.