Numbers usually connote strength, safety and security. It is for this reason that people in all trades and professions become members of unions. A small membership fee usually meant collective representation for both individual and professional or communal reasons such as increased wages, workload, funding for schools etc. The purpose of belonging to unions is defeated when other members of the union choose to exclude or discriminate a member for entertaining differing opinions, for non-conforming or for being racially diverse. I have heard stories of staff being excluded by few others who slander, manipulate or even coerce others into supporting them to show that they’re influential or that they are popular. Often, unions fail to fulfil their promises about individual representation. Being a federation member for a period of eight to ten years, I have experienced and witnessed alienation or isolation by other members for whatever ulterior motives and hence have failed to see meaning in continuing to be a federation member. Such alienation, may not appear as significant, on the surface level, but is enough to cause an unpleasant, unhealthy environment for any staff and cause unnecessary interference with classroom management and work ethics.
An individual is very important to an organisation or to the union and this can be elucidated with an analogy. If a single brick is dislodged from a wall of a well-constructed building, the building may not fall apart; however, the strength of the wall is questionable as there is a possibility of moisture and other factors causing damage. The individual is always imperative for any organisation and failure to represent him/her not only leads to unpopularity of the union but also explains why it is becoming powerless against government’s manipulative strategies. Then emerges the question, “What prevents the individual from protesting?” A lack of confidence and trust and probably the realisation that the concern would not be addressed at all could have prevented the victimised from travelling down that alleyway.
“What remains to be done in the present circumstances?” becomes the crucial question. I see only two alternatives. Either the union take steps to inform the members and its representatives that in supporting such exclusions of staff members they are not upholding the reasons which are the basis on which the union has been founded or exists and that they are not united. Or having failed to represent the individual, the union should then consider refunding the fees that he/she has paid them as a member for the duration of 8-10 years as I am strong in my conviction that he/she did not deserve to be treated in an unjust manner.
There is every possibility that the second alternative could be regarded as far-fetched and hilarious, however, on serious reflection, you may be able to see the violation of union rules at the heart of this reflection and the union’s fall.