Five facts teachers’ unions won’t admit

Educators have to sift through a lot of misinformation regarding unions and membership. Below are five of the most common issues the major state and national teachers’ unions don’t want educators to question, courtesy of Free to Teach.

Fact #1: Teachers feel a lot of pressure to join a union.

Even though no teacher or public education worker can be forced to financially support a union (thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Janus v. AFSCME), unionization is still coercive. In Minnesota, educators are free to join the teachers’ union at any time, but they are only given 30 days out of the year to resign membership. The Center believes resignation windows are unconstitutional, but until that gets sorted out in the courts, teachers who are unhappy with their union and want to resign are trapped by “maintenance of membership” language—literally, a “MOM”—that limits when they can opt-out.

Many teachers have also shared with the Center’s Educated Teachers MN project that they were pressured to meet with a union representative about their decision to resign membership and were given misinformation about what does and does not happen outside of membership. Others witnessed the union using fear tactics, such as stating that only a couple of teachers in the whole district were not members.

Educated Teachers MN equips Minnesota’s educators with resources and support so they can make the decision that is right for them regarding union membership. Join us!

Fact #2: Dues are used for politics.

Teachers who are union members are charged a $25 PAC contribution that gets pulled out of their dues total. (The PAC contribution is refundable, find out more here.) While only the union’s PAC can directly contribute to political candidates and political parties, there are many other ways the union spends dues on “soft” political activities such as get-out-the-vote drives, election mailers, public marketing campaigns, and lobbying at the legislature. In the union’s 2017-2018 federal filing, the most recent available data, Education Minnesota spent over $1.7 million of teachers’ union dues on “political activities and lobbying,” which is separate political spending from the union’s PAC. Union dues can be used for all types of political purposes.

Fact #3: The Janus case is NOT an attack on unions.

The Janus case fully restored public employees’ First Amendment rights by overturning a precedent that required government workers to financially support a union in order to keep their jobs. According to Free to Teach, unions in this post-Janus world “have the opportunity to become stronger than ever: by actually earning the loyalty of government workers who may now freely choose membership, and by genuinely winning new members. If public sector unions are willing to demonstrate their value, there’s no reason they shouldn’t thrive.”

Fact #4: Workers who no longer pay the union are not “free riders.”

Back in 1971 when lawmakers enacted Minnesota’s Public Employee Relations Act, the teachers’ union fought for—and won—the right to represent all employees in a bargaining unit, regardless of membership status. This made the teachers’ union the “exclusive representative” over both union members and nonmembers. “Free rider” and “scab” claims are therefore completely disingenuous and disparage the public employees unions fought to represent.

If the teachers’ union no longer wants to represent nonmembers because a fee to do so can no longer be assessed, then it can lobby to have exclusive representation rights amended so it only has to represent its members.


Fact #5: Your local union gets little of your dues to negotiate your pay.

Minnesota teachers who are union members pay dues to a local teachers’ union, a state teachers’ union, and two national teachers’ unions. The local union is primarily responsible for conducting all the representational and day-to-day activities on behalf of teachers, yet it receives the smallest portion of dues revenue. According to available dues data, local unions receive between 17 percent to 20 percent of dues. (Information on the allocation of dues is hard to obtain because the majority of this data is stonewalled behind union member login requirements.) The rest gets eaten up by the state and national unions, where it is used for six-figure executive salaries, political activity, and other bureaucracy.