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September 24-30 is decision time for Minnesota Educators: Union Sets Narrow Exit Window Once a Year

Following the victory of Mark Janus in Janus v Afscme, public employees have the First Amendment right to resign from their union without losing their job, or to take a job in the public sector without joining the union.

Even though the Court in Janus flipped the default from an “opt-out” to an “opt-in” for union membership, it will take years of battling in the courts and state legislatures to enforce the Janus ruling and to clarify what the Court meant when it said that an employee must give “affirmative consent” before dues can be deducted for union membership.

Here is the challenge: union members probably signed a union card at some point in their career that authorized the deduction of dues, PAC money and set the terms for resignation. Those unions cards are designed to make it very hard to resign from union membership.

The Center expects the union cards to be found to unreasonably interfere with the First Amendment rights of employees, but in the meantime the Center wants to offer educators and other public employees the information they need to choose for themselves what is best.

We have focused on educators first because they have a clear window to resign during the week of September 24-30. (The window for other employees is usually based on when they signed their card, so the dates are unique to the employee. We will be talking more about that this fall.)

EducatedTeachersMn.com is a website the Center created just for teachers and educational support professionals (ESPs) who belong to the teachers’ union, Education Minnesota. The project seeks to inform and empower teachers and ESPS by offering them practical advice and assistance on how to resign from the union. (Educators can generate a resignation letter starting next week.) It features educational material about the state and national teachers’ unions, how dues are being spent and alternatives to membership in the union.

We have been contacting teachers all over the state telling them about EducatedTeachersMn.com and offering answers to questions they have as they evaluate what the Janus decision means for them.

Please share this post with an educator in your life. And understand that this is not an easy decision for most educators. The teachers’ union has been imbedded in the culture of teaching colleges, K-12 schools and our state polity for over 50 years.

Even conservative, independent or religious teachers who understand that giving dues to Education Minnesota is like giving money to the DFL and its leftist causes are struggling with whether to break with the union. There are a lot of practical considerations for educators but also union myths and fears to be overcome about liability coverage, pensions and their contract. And they are busy trying to teach and care for their own families. The union sets the window at a time when teachers are focused on getting the year off to a good start for students.

Here are the “frequently asked questions” or FAQ that will arrive in many teachers’ mailboxes soon. We hope educators find these helpful!

 

Will I still be able to get liability insurance if I am not a member of Education Minnesota?

Yes. There are several teacher associations that provide teachers with the same or more personal protection than Education Minnesota.

Examples include the Association of Midwest Professional Educators, the Association of American Educators and the Christian Educators Association International. Check with your home/auto insurance agent for options, too.

If I am a member, how do I resign or “opt-out” from Education Minnesota and its affiliates?

The union limits teachers to a narrow, seven-day opt-out period that starts September 24 and ends September 30, 2018. You should send a resignation letter to Education Minnesota, with a copy to your local union, and a copy to your school district so payroll knows to stop deducting dues from your paycheck. We offer an “auto-fill” option that will generate a letter if you would find that convenient.

Does the Janus v. AFSCME ruling mean my will union disappear? Will I have to negotiate my own contract?

No. The union, as the exclusive bargaining agent, will still represent members and non-members, just like it did when it represented fair-share fee payers before Janus. You cannot negotiate your own contract. Non-members will have all the rights and benefits afforded members under the contract. (Some teachers would prefer to negotiate their own contract, but that is not allowed under the law.)

Can I be fired, penalized or retaliated against for not being a member of Education Minnesota?

No. Being a full dues-paying member of a union is voluntary. You cannot be fired from your job or penalized for belonging to a union, or not belonging to a union. It is illegal for a school district or other employer to discriminate against you for exercising this right.

It is also illegal for the union to retaliate or discriminate against employees who exercise their constitutional right not to join or support the union.

If I have opted out of union membership before (i.e. “fair-share” payer), do I need to do so again?

No. If you were a fair-share fee payer when Janus was decided, you got a pay raise on June 27, 2018. It is our understanding that all school districts stopped deducting fair-share fees immediately following Janus. We recommend you confirm that your district employer is no longer deducting fees from your paycheck.

If I am not a member of Education Minnesota, does that affect my pension?

No. Your defined benefit pension and 403(b) are offered as benefits by your district employer, not by the union. Pensions are not subject to collective bargaining in Minnesota, though the unions do lobby on the issue. Union members and non-members have the same pension benefits.

How does the Janus decision impact collective bargaining?

The Janus ruling had no effect on collective bargaining. The union will still negotiate with the district, and all employees—regardless of union membership status—will be covered by the union contract. The union remains the exclusive representative of all employees in the bargaining unit and must represent all employees in good faith.

Is there a way for teachers to just financially support their local union and not Education Minnesota (and NEA and AFT)? Can we go local only?

No, and Yes. Teachers and other school employees (e.g. ESPs) cannot choose to belong only to the local union. If you are a member of the union, you pay dues to Education Minnesota and its local and national affiliates (NEA/AFT). You can, however, resign or “opt-out” of Education Minnesota and its affiliates, then send voluntary donations to your local association. This solves the “free-rider” problem and keeps the money local.

If I am a new teacher, do I have to join the union?

No. The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed in Janus that you do not have to join or support a union to get or keep your job. The Court also said that your employer and the union must get your affirmative consent before deducting any union dues from your paycheck. And because the unions asked for and won the legal right to represent all the teachers at your school, the union must fairly represent you even if you are not a member. Federal and Minnesota law prohibit your employer or the union from treating you differently from a union member.

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