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Salary Campaign Checklist

Through its nationwide salary campaign, NEA aims to become the leading advocate for professional, competitive pay for public pre-K-12 and higher education employees.

NEA's salary goals include a $50,000 minimum salary for all teachers, an appropriate living wage as starting pay for all education support professionals (ESPs), and appropriate professional pay for higher education faculty and staff.

There's no one way to run a salary campaign. But there's consistency in the advice offered by NEA state affiliate leaders and staff who have run promising or successful pay initiatives. Among other things, they suggest that you:

  •  Build broad unity over a salary campaign, to ensure that it gets support from members, UniServ staff, and elected leaders. Ensure that everyone has input into the project and will help put it into effect.

  • Devise a long-term campaign plan, starting with a member-driven "SWOT" analysis of organizational strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to be faced. Decide who does what and when, and build flexibility (and creativity) into the plan.

  • Create ambitious salary goals based on a "We're worth it" mentality. Educators' work has gotten steadily more complex. Yet it pays less than other, comparable professions that rank similarly on a job evaluation "point" scale  for factors such as supervision received, professional judgment, and client contact.

  • Gather solid, reliable data on topics such as the cost of living, the regional living wage, pay in comparable professions, member/public opinion about educator pay, logical and potential allies in a salary campaign, and what you know about the "opposition."

  • Build stronger local Associations through measures such as member and leader training, local Association committee work, effective Association/faculty rep systems, and broadened local leadership.

  • Increase membership (towards 100 percent) and member involvement. Administrators gauge the strength of a union by its member support.

  • Focus on healthy salary schedules that are "strong and short" and have extra columns/lanes for professional development. Shorter schedules maximize lifetime earnings.

  • Inventory your "member assets" through a survey on educators' community leadership roles, special credentials and training, professional awards, or personal successes — to demonstrate that NEA members are "good neighbors" and community leaders.

  • Reach out to the community for allies, by having members speak about professional, competitive pay in the community or religious groups to which they belong — and by coalition work with logical allies like other unions, higher ed students, or parent groups.

  • Research strong arguments for professional pay, including the need to recruit and retain quality educators, the high costs of employee turnover (and retraining), the continued loss of "institutional memory" because of low pay, or the scandal of public education employees surviving on government or family assistance.

  • Use member spokespeople who can talk from the heart about the salary issue. Find the best folks, give them message training, and coach them on public speaking and dealing with the media.

  • Communicate constantly with members and the public during a long salary campaign. Some goals: Keep members in the loop (across a state, campus, school district, or university system), gauge employee morale, create a salary "buzz," and play up even the smallest victories and build momentum.

  • Surround decision makers with unified, engaged NEA members and community allies—be they clergy, community leaders, or members of other unions—who echo your arguments for professional pay and demonstrate that you don't stand alone.

  • Apply pressure incrementally to gradually build up member resolve and demonstrate to decision makers that it would be better to "settle" early than endure an all-out battle — involving bad publicity, employee pressure, or possible legal/legislative action.

  • Use leverage through regional or employerwide joint union councils, the "best practices" created by your strongest local affiliates, and the buzz generated by initial salary victories.

  • Build employee unity among NEA members in various ESP classifications and between faculty members and ESPs. And connect K-12 and higher education members in the same region, and members of NEA with other unions. Publicize the common concerns of each of these groups and stress how solidarity makes it easier to create a broader climate for change.

  • Win professional, competitive pay, then preserve it through smart bargaining, healthy salary schedules, and relationship-building with folks who initially opposed you. Get them to concede that professional pay is sound public policy and the best way to attract and retain quality educators.


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