AEU ACT Secretary
Over the years, I’ve heard teachers give all sorts of reasons for not being a member of our union. Not one of these reasons is convincing. One of the least valid reasons is that a personal disagreement with the AEU’s stance on a particular issue means one simply doesn’t join or, sometimes, even resigns their membership.
I’ve heard it about our strong position on public school funding. I’ve heard it in the context of the marriage equality debate. I hear it occasionally around the Safe Schools program. I may hear it during the next federal election campaign. In fact, I can envisage hearing it about any number of issues on which multiple viewpoints are likely.
The AEU is proudly democratic. Our mission is, in part, to be the most democratic and representative voice of the teaching profession. Our policy positions are not decided by me alone, or by our federal office, or by some small leadership group removed from the membership at large – you, as members, make the decisions.
We are a representative democracy. Eight times a year, up to 220 members from around the ACT meet as our elected Branch Council to decide policy and action. A group of elected representatives from each sub-branch, they are the supreme decision-making body of our union. They are teachers, principals, deputy principals, school assistants and CIT teachers – rank-and-file members, at the chalk face, not paid officials. Between Council meetings, decisions are made by our Branch Executive, which meets once a month. Executive has 17 members, one of whom is me, and the rest of whom are rank-and-file members, elected by their fellow members.
Meanwhile, sub-branches hold meetings at which members can carry resolutions to be debated at the next Council meeting and resolutions for the Executive to consider.
Each of us should congratulate the members who participate in the decision-making forums of our union. They do so in their own time out of a commitment to the common good. They never cease to inspire me.
As individuals, it’s obvious we won’t always agree with every decision made by the majority, but in a democracy, decisions are still made by those who turn up. If you disagree, argue your case, but accept the collective decisions while you enjoy the profound benefits of membership and collective action.
I’ll let you in on a secret: even I don’t agree with all the decisions that are made in our decision-making forums. I’ll argue my corner, but at the end of the day, I will accept and implement the democratic decisions of our union. This is what solidarity means.
We are larger now than we have ever been; our membership in the ACT stands at over 3,550, and the strength of our numbers has never been more important than in this crucial bargaining year. If you have colleagues who are not AEU members, now is the time to have a conversation with them and assist them in filling out a membership form. I can never accept that people don’t join our union simply because they have never been asked. Growing our union benefits all of us by increasing our power and influence, and it is every member’s business.
The best reasons you can give your colleagues as to why they should belong? To have their say, to have an effective professional voice, and to stand alongside us when we win.