The director of the Professional Educators of Iowa (P.E.I.) says he sees a trend of teachers seeking to break their ties with the large state union to work with his association to create their own bargaining units. P.E.I. director, Jim Hawkins, says the Moravia and Earlham school district teachers recently voted to decertify their union association with the Iowa State Education Association and the National Educators Association — increasing the number of districts that have done so.

Hawkins says in their 30-year history, they had a school district decertify its union association six years ago, then one more did the same last year, and now two more have. “It looks like the beginning of a trend,” Hawkins says. P.E.I. has traditionally worked with individual teachers from districts who did not want to join the union.

Hawkins says his organization has seen a growth of 20% each of the last three years. Hawkins says there are some schools where the union vote has gotten very low, he says in Earlham for example, they were down to five or six teachers in the union that were bargaining for the 58 teachers there. “That means…on a split vote, you could have three people deciding what the contract would say for 58 people,” Hawkins says.

Hawkins says his association offers many of the same services of the union, but he says it is unlike the union, which he says “fishes for the teachers.” “We advise on how to work with their districts for what’s best for the district and the students of the district and the teachers,” Hawkins says,”We truly believe a good working wage, safe working conditions, materials to work within a district are important , we stress that when we go in to meet. But the local people do their own negotiation, they fish for themselves, they do it all on their own.”

Hawkins says the local organizations also benefit by keeping their costs lower. “We don’t ship hundreds of thousands of dollars off to a national union every year, like the National Education Association. We don’t force dues, and as a result, our dues structure is a fraction of the cost, of what it costs for the union model,” Hawkins says.

He says P.E.I. does not engage in non-education political activity that may violate the personal beliefs of members, and takes positions on education issues after surveying members and receiving a majority vote in support or opposition.