Frequently Asked Questions about AFT-WV

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AFT-WV: What we're all about

Higher quality education for all students. Real collaboration. Higher pay. Realistic achievement targets. Reasonable assessments. Respect for teachers and service personnel. Administrators who back up your decisions. Retirement security. 

Are these important to you?

AFT -West Virginia is a statewide education employees union that exists to serve its members and local unions, also called “locals” or “affiliates,” as well as enhance and improve public education. It is the largest union in the state of West Virginia.

When you join a local union—for example, AFT-Kanawha in Kanawha County, or AFT-Service Personnel,  —you are automatically a member in the statewide organization of AFT-WV and our national organization, the American Federation of Teachers, based in Washington, DC. Likewise, when you join the “Professional Educators Group” (PEG) for counties that have not yet chartered a local, you also become part of the AFT-WV and AFT family. Members of local unions elect a president and other officers at state conventions, and the state organization is governed by an executive board made up of the elected officers and members-at-large. These leaders provide ongoing policy direction for AFT-WV.

AFT-WV strives to provide a range of initiatives and services to local unions and all members. For example,  AFT-WV protects the interests of its members at the WV Legislature, the WV Department of Education, the Retirement System and other education-related state bodies. Campaigns for statewide pay raises, state-paid health insurance, and our successful initiative to pass the Safe Schools Act are examples of the advocacy activities of AFT-WV members and its team of registered lobbyists.

AFT-WV also provides a range of publications--such as newsletters mailed to all members and specialized publications alerting members to pressing legislative or policy matters. Additionally, AFT-WV maintains a web site,  email and text alerts, active social media sites and plans to contunue expanding our communication methods to memebers.

AFT-WV offers an ever-changing catalogue of workshops, some on a statewide basis, some locally, and some in a train-the-trainer format covering topics from improving professional practices to how to run a political campaign. AFT-WV also holds a state-level conference focusing on professional issues and best practices in teaching.

What does my local union do? 
AFT-WV believes that the local union is the key to promoting the interests of education employees. Local school boards hire and fire, promulgate county policies, decide local pay raises, and implement initiatives that help or hurt employees and students. We as AFT-WV members have the greatest power over school boards if we are organized to make our voices heard at the board level and at the ballot box during school-board elections. 

Does AFT have a local union in all 55 counties? What about service personnel? And higher education institutions?
We have locals in almost all 55 county school systems. We have locals dedicated to service personnel. We have numerous members at higher education institutions across the state, including AFT-WV's first chartered higher education local at Concord University. We have public employee members. Additionally, we have many members that belong to our Professional Educators Group (PEG) in areas that have not yet chartered a local union.

How does a local union form?
We are constantly on the alert for members in these districts who are willing to make the commitment and assume the leadership needed for a local group to survive and thrive. In areas covered by our Professional Educators Group, AFT-WV staff representatives are available to assist leaders in efforts to organize more school employees and attract enough membership to support a full local union.

We know that for educational employees to achieve the best representation possible, a local union is essential. A major responsibility of AFT-WV staff is to support members wanting to lead local unions, taking charge of operating largely independent and autonomous units in their particular school districts. This AFT-WV support system allows local members to progress at their own pace until they are ready to assume the responsibilities and privileges of having their own local. It is a proud day for these local members when they are awarded a charter number from the American Federation of Teachers.

What are some of the benefits of membership in AFT-WV?
The advocacy program is probably the most important benefit of membership in both a local and statewide union. The union offers much more than professional liability insurance or consumer discounts. The union is a change agent working to transform the nature of the workplace for all educational employees and to strengthen public education for all children. We believe that employees have a right to an organization that belongs to them free of administrator influence, one that strives to give them an equal seat at the table for decision-making about wages, hours, conditions of employment, and educational policy. The core benefits of membership are yours whether you join in Morgantown, Charleston or Martinsburg, WV. Here is a summary:
  • Each AFT-WV member is insured with an $1,000,000 Occupational Liability Insurance policy. This is your professional educational worker insurance, to protect against lawsuits filed by a student or a student’s parents, when you are acting within the scope of your duties as a school employee.
  • Every member is covered by a Legal Defense Fund to protect against any employment related claim. This policy is funded as a joint venture between your chartered local, AFT-WV and AFT.
  • All AFT-WV members receive $25,000 Accidental Death and Dismemberment coverage through a policy held by AFT. Each member should fill out an AD&D beneficiary card and put a copy in his/her personal files. Please contact your AFT-WV member benefits representative for a beneficiary card.
  • As a special gift for joining AFT-WV, new members can activate a $5,000 Term Life Insurance policy at no cost for one full year. At the end of one year you will be invited to continue the policies; the choice is yours. Sign up as soon as you join and start your coverage! This no cost offer cannot be extended to a member who has previously received the one year for free.

In addition to these benefits, you can save money and enjoy a long list of discounts on services for auto insurance, mortgages, car rentals, credit cards, theme parks and more. Some locals have secured other benefits from local vendors and service providers as well.

Can the union help me be a better teacher or school employee?
Yes. AFT-WV and many locals provide professional development classes throughout the year. Topics range from “Classroom Management for School Service Personnel” to “Thinking Math” and many aspects of state and federal laws. AFT-WV has a long tradition of helping teachers learn more about their profession and how best to assist their students in learning. The union also sponsors workshops of interest for all employees, such as changes in health-care or retirement plans. Many districts have worked directly with AFT-WV to provide professional development, continuing education programs, and assistance for low-performing schools.

Why should I join AFT-West Virginia? 
AFT-West Virginia is the state affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT)—a national union with 1.6 million members. The organization represents education employees, some other public employees, and nurses throughout the country. The national officers of AFT are elected in even-numbered years by delegates elected to its national convention. AFT is affiliated with the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations, the AFL-CIO. When you join your local union of AFT, you automatically become a part of both the statewide AFT-WV and the nationwide American Federation of Teachers.

It is important to belong to an organization that can represent your interests at all levels, not least at the national level. For example, the reauthorization of ESEA on the federal level affects every educational employee in the country. AFT is headquartered in Washington, D.C., giving voice to our concerns about ESEA and pursuing our interests in the federal Department of Education rule-making process.

Our affiliation with the national AFL-CIO also serves your interest. Ten million working Americans are members of 55 unions affiliated with the AFL-CIO. We join with those members as partners in a movement that wants fair treatment for all workers. These AFL-CIO members are the parents of the children we teach. They are our natural allies, and we likewise support their efforts to secure decent wages, hours, and conditions of employment in their workplaces.

How do I join AFT-WV? 
Call 1-800-222-9838 to request an information packet and membership application or request membership information at info@aftwv.org.

How much does AFT-WV membership cost?

Chartered locals: For full-service AFT-WV local union membership, the cost of membership will vary depending upon local dues and the month in which you join. The member pays all of the dues to the local, and the local forwards a percentage of “per capita” payments to the state and national affiliates (at a rate determined democratically in state and national conventions). Again, the dues will vary, because a local union can set its own total dues amount in accord with the wishes of its local members. Your local AFT-WV officers or state AFT office can tell you what the dues amount is for your local.

Counties where no AFT-WV local union currently exists: You can obtain membership in AFT as either a full member or as an associate member, referred to as the AFT-WV Professional Educator Group (PEG) membership. PEG membership is specially designed to serve the needs of teacher employees in districts that don’t yet have an AFT local union. There are also locals for school service personnel. For more information about joining AFT-WV, call 1-800-222-9838.

When can I join?  There is no calendar-year deadline to join the union, and members generally pay only the proportionate share of dues owed for a membership year. However, prospective members need to know that they cannot join the union and expect legal representation regarding events or job-related problems that precede their membership date. To explain by analogy, you can’t buy fire insurance after the building is ablaze.
 

How do I know that the AFT-West Virginia is the best organization to join?
If you believe that it is important to have strong representation at the national, state,and local levels, then AFT-West Virginia is the organization for you.

If you believe that it is difficult or even impossible for an organization to represent both administrators and non-administrators at the same time, then AFT-West Virginia is the organization for you.  Other groups accept principals, superintendents, and other administrators as members—the very same people with whom you may have a conflict that needs resolution. Would you hire a lawyer to defend you who was also employed by the prosecution?

If you believe that it takes an entire team to educate a child, and that the team includes all non-supervisory personnel at your school, including the bus driver, the cafeteria worker, the custodian, classroom aides and other support personnel, then AFT-West Virginia is the organization for you. School service personnel across the state have chosen AFT as their voice at the Captiol and in their counties.

If you believe that even members in areas too small, too remote or without available strong local leadership deserve some opportunity to join a union at a dues amount they can justify, then you will appreciate the AFT-WV's Professional Educators Group.

If you believe passionately in public education and public service as the very bedrock of democracy, believe that democracy deserves to be extended into the workplace to include collective bargaining for all educational and public employees, and that you get what you pay for, then you will be at home with membership in AFT-West Virginia. 

How will I know that I am a member?
You will receive a membership packet of information about benefits within a month of joining. You will also begin to receive local, state, and national publications, some targeted to your particular employment classification. If you don’t hear from us, please call your local or state affiliate (1-800-222-9838) and they will make sure that your contact information is up to date and these resources and publications are on their way to you.