Do teachers oppose or support forced union dues?
As the Edina School scandal continues to unfold, you can expect me to talk often about an important case before the U.S. Supreme Court this term, Janus v. AFSCME. It is hard to overstate how important this case is to the health and future of representative democracy and the culture that makes self-governance possible.
Like the case brought (and nearly won but for the death of Justice Scalia) by California teacher, Rebecca Friedrichs in 2016, if Mr. Janus wins the day, the Court will reverse a 1977 case called Abood that allowed public employees–who do not want to join a union–to be forced to pay “fair share fees” to unions in order to keep their job.
The idea was that the fees would just cover the cost of representing the employee. Under Abood, public employees were not supposed to be forced to support political spending. But in most states, those fees amount to nearly full union dues. In Minnesota, it is about 85% of dues.
Does anyone believe the unions are spending 85% of their dues-revenue on collective bargaining? No, they are spending 85% and more on making sure they stay in power and advancing a their own political agenda that has incited a cultural civil war in the United States. What the Supreme Court did in 1977 is create a monopoly power and guaranteed revenue to government unions. It changed how our representative democracy works by placing powerful unions on both sides of the “collective” bargaining table. Who else gets to elect the people who vote on their contracts and other priorities like making sure union dues are deducted from paychecks before employees ever see the money?
Among other things that never made sense about the Abood ruling, is that if non-member teachers are paying 85% of dues to cover the cost of negotiations, why do they lose their right to vote on the contract? And as Mark Janus will argue, even the contracts negotiated by unions are political in nature because they affect taxes, pensions and spending—all decisions made by elected officials.
ALL collective bargaining, therefore, is political.
Even if teachers like their union, and want to remain members, why are they forced, as teaching professionals, to support a bargaining agent in order to keep their job?
Why would the agent do a good job representing teachers if the agent knows its fee and power are guaranteed? The good news is that many teaching professionals understand this.
In the 2017 Education Next poll, respondents were asked about agency fees.
Forty-four percent of respondents oppose the practice of requiring teachers to pay fees to unions they choose not to join, while just 37% support the practice, much the same as a year ago. More surprising, perhaps, is the fact that teachers themselves are also more likely to oppose agency fees than to support them, by a narrow 47%–44% margin. Despite holding positive views of union influence, then, many teachers apparently think that they should be able to decide whether or not to contribute money to support union activities at the bargaining table.
The promise of Janus, is that America can get back to a more civil debate by restoring the First Amendment rights of all public employees—and getting politics out of the teachers’ lounge and out of the classroom.
I have no doubt that most teachers in the Edina School District are dedicated professionals who just want to teach—and like the mean girls we all knew in school, that it is a small minority of teachers bullying and enforcing a trade union mentality that is making teachers miserable and creating a hostile environment for the free exchange of ideas.
A veteran teacher recently who told me, “Not even liberal teachers like being told who to vote for and they’d like to choose union membership, rather than being forced.”
Let’s win that basic freedom back for all teachers.