By Peggy Wirtz-Olsen, WEAC Vice President
Megan Faherty, high school history and psychology teacher and Vice President of the Greendale Education Association, attributes the strength of the Greendale Education Association (GEA) to “our ability to reach out to our members, find out what matters to them, and then organize around issues that are important to them.”
Megan shared, “We regularly complete member surveys and hold listening sessions to engage our members.” This has led to good results throughout the district. “We are proud of our salary schedule. When a committee was formed to work on the structure, our union leadership was part of this work, which led to a predictable structure that is objective and not based on merit-based incentives,” according to Megan.
Ben Hubing, Greendale Education Association President, recognized the importance of collaboration with the school district, saying, “Because of our relationship, we can work collaboratively on behalf of our students and our colleagues.” He also noted the salary schedule success, saying, “Our salary schedule is reliable, predictable, and has attainable benchmarks.”
Ben discussed the process that they used back in 2013 to arrive at this model: “We reviewed many other salary models and advocated for the needs of our members, which included a model that rewards consistency and fairness while also building a career sustaining wage for our teachers.”
Zach Geiger, high school computer science teacher in his fifth year in the district, said, “Our local is strong because of our high level of membership. People want to be a part of an organization that makes good decisions like the Greendale Education Association.”
When I asked Zach about those good decisions and victories of the GEA, he said, “We have the best salary schedule in the area, which isn’t a flashy win, but it is an important product of our union meeting with administration.”
Ben also said, “While our membership is strong, we’d like it to grow,” reinforcing the GEA’s commitment to improvement and to growth and strength in the local. Ben also said, “We engage in school board elections and are seeking to mobilize our members when possible around critical issues like just cause handbook language, affordable health care, and retirement benefits.”
In terms of advocacy, Megan said, “Our local is working on the number one issue from our membership – finding a manageable workload. The GEA is magnifying members’ voices on this issue to make improvements.”
Megan also pointed out that they are organizing around their members’ needs for professional development days, particularly those in summer, when families with children can’t easily attend. “We are working on specific changes by leading these discussions with the district and engaging our members in these conversations.”
Megan also said, “The Greendale Education Association is only as strong as our regional and state organizations. We’d like to help others to achieve the gains that we have made locally because it helps us all.”
That’s what unions do: We lift each other up so that everyone is stronger.
Read all of Peggy’s ‘Spotlight On Locals’ columns at weac.org/Spotlight.