Spring 2021



Degree Name


Primary Advisor/Dissertation Chair

James Brickwedde

Secondary Advisor/Reader One

Allison LaBree

Peer-Reviewer/Reader Two

Andrea Sasseville


The purpose of this study was to gather middle school teachers’ beliefs, perceptions, opinions, and experiences around teachers union membership and engagement. The topic became a focus within union circles in advance of the 2018 United States Supreme Court Ruling, Janus vs. AFSCME Council 31, which halted the collection of agency fees, or fees paying for the cost of union representation during collective bargaining, among public employees. This study draws on the work of several other researchers studying educators’ varying beliefs and experiences around teachers unions, including Popiel (2013), Chapman (2013), Pogodzinski & Jones (2014), and Swenson Chipman (2014). It also draws on the work of Educators for Excellence, which put out the 2018 Educators for Excellence Survey gathering k-12 teachers’ beliefs and plans regarding union membership and engagement. In phase one of this explanatory sequential mixed methods study, 32 licensed middle school teachers responded to an electronic survey. The survey gathered educators’ thoughts and experiences regarding teachers union membership and engagement as well as their demographic information. In phase two, four educators, who were selected from among the initial 32 survey respondents, participated in semi-structured interviews about their union membership and engagement, exploring survey questions in greater depth. Results showed that higher educator age/years of experience were associated with higher knowledge of union services/benefits, higher levels of union membership, lower levels of membership variability, higher levels of favorability toward teachers unions, and lower numbers of educators who believe racial equity should be a priority for union reform. Contrary to previous studies, higher educator age/years of experience were not associated with higher levels of union engagement. In addition, educators who identified as Black or Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) showed lower knowledge of union services/benefits, lower levels of union membership, higher levels of membership variability, and lower levels of union favorability, than their colleagues who identified as Caucasian. BIPOC participants also showed higher levels of union engagement, and reported different barriers to union engagement and priorities for union reform.

Research Methodology

Interview, Survey (attitude scale, opinion, questionnaire)


Teachers/ Teaching, Teachers unions








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