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Survey Says: MN teachers have heard very little, if anything, about Janus case

The Supreme Court has up to another month to rule on Janus v. AFSCME, a case asking the High Court to overturn a 1977 decision that forces government employees to pay agency fees to a union.

The court’s upcoming ruling could significantly impact millions of public workers, including thousands of teachers in the state of Minnesota.

But as of April 2018, 70 percent of Minnesota teachers had heard not much (27 percent) or nothing (43 percent) about Janus v. AFSCME, according to a national survey by Educators for Excellence (E4E).

Teachers that I have met with were also largely unfamiliar with the case, and even after a brief description of Janus v. AFSCME was provided, some thought it was a case to eliminate unions.

This shows how important it is to help our teachers understand the implications of a pro-Janus ruling—a restoration of First Amendment rights; bringing voice and choice to a job that often silences those who push back against the status quo.

The E4E survey, Voices from the Classroom: A Survey of America’s Educators, was conducted online and asked 1,000 full-time classroom teachers from traditional public schools and public charter schools across the country and an additional sample of 50 Minnesota teachers not only about Janus but also about a variety of issues regarding the teaching profession and union representation.

Minnesota educators have shared with me they want their union to focus more on meeting their professional needs and less on political activity. This sentiment was captured in the survey results, as well. According to the survey, teachers feel “it is a lot less important for the unions to provide information about political candidates and their issue positions, or support and endorse political candidates.” These teachers also do not believe their unions’ policy decisions align with their own policy preferences.

Despite being the primary agent for teachers in policy decisions, 62 percent of Minnesota teachers said their union represents their perspective only somewhat, while another 23 percent said that it did not very much or did not at all.

Full survey results will be released on August 1.

Some background on E4E: Educators for Excellence is a “teacher-led organization that ensures teachers have a leading voice in the policies that impact their students and profession.” The organization has different teams across the country, including one in Minnesota.

I was able to meet with a couple members of their Minnesota branch, and they confirmed the organization is taking a pro-union position on the case and is against a ruling in favor of Mark Janus. (E4E also came out in favor of the California Teachers Association in Friedrichs v. CTA in 2016.)

No matter what the Court decides, we hope the union will seize this opportunity to prove their worth and re-evaluate the focus of their work. Teachers want a union that reflects their priorities, not a union that drowns those priorities in a political maelstrom.

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