A Collective Pursuit

Teachers' Unions and Education Reform

Lesley Lavery
Book Cover

PB: $27.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-1936-1
Publication: May 20

HC: $89.50
EAN: 978-1-4399-1935-4
Publication: May 20

Ebook: $27.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-1937-8
Publication: May 20

234 pages
5.5 x 8.25
3 tables

Arguing that teachers’ unions are working in community to reinvigorate the collective pursuit of reforms beneficial to both educators and public education

Read Chapter 1 (.pdf)


Teachers’ unions are the organizations responsible for safeguarding the conditions of teachers’ employment. Union supporters claim strong synergies between teachers’ interests and students’ interests, but critics of unions insist that the stance of teachers in collective bargaining may disadvantage students as unions reduce the power of administrators to manage, remove, reward or retain excellent teachers.

In A Collective Pursuit, Lesley Lavery unpacks how teachers’ unions today are fighting for contracts that allow them to earn a decent living and build “schools all students deserve.” She explains the form and function of the nation’s largest teachers’ unions. Lavery then explores unionization campaigns in the Twin Cities charter schools. A Collective Pursuit also examines teacher strikes and contract negotiations, school finance and finance reform, and district and union attempts to address racial achievement gaps, to provide a context for understanding the economic, political, and demographic forces that inspire teachers to improve conditions for students.

A Collective Pursuit emphasizes that while teachers’ unions serve a traditional, economic role, they also provide a vast array of valuable services to students, educators, parents, and community members.


In A Collective Pursuit , Lesley Lavery dismantles the dubious but durable narrative that teachers’ unions are selfish and anachronistic. Using instructive case studies from Minnesota, she explains why charter school teachers are seeking greater voice through a union and why traditional public school teachers are bargaining for the common good. Through engaging stories, Lavery lays out a powerful vision for how teachers and their unions can strengthen our democracy and better help students succeed.”—Richard D. Kahlenberg, Senior Fellow, The Century Foundation, and author of Tough Liberal: Albert Shanker and the Battles Over Schools, Unions, Race, and Democracy

“In this exceptionally well-written book, Lavery provides a comprehensive overview of contemporary teachers’ unions. Using case studies from the Twin Cities that richly document the unionization process of charter schools in that region, Lavery sheds light on the motivations of teachers and their dedication to the students they educate. Her findings are relevant and generalizable to trends across the nation. This book is a must-read for anyone interested in understanding urban education and the role of unionization in contemporary urban America.”—Stefanie Chambers, Professor and Chair of Political Science, Trinity College, and author of Mayors and Schools: Minority Voices and Democratic Tensions in Urban Education and Somalis in the Twin Cities and Columbus: Immigrant Incorporation in New Destinations

Table of Contents

1. The Union Debate
2. Union History

3. Teacher-Led Unionization in the Charter Sector
4. The Unionized Charter School Contract
5. Top-Down Unionization in the Charter Sector

6. The State of the Union
7. You Get What You Pay For: Declines and Revolts
8. The Problem We All Live With: Race and Reform Realities
9. Damned if They Do, Damned if They Don’t, Teachers Choose Collective Pursuit


About the Author(s)

Lesley Lavery is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Macalester College.