Teachers unaware of union options

This op-ed first appeared in the July 26 print edition of the Dassel-Cokato Enterprise Dispatch

For over a year now, teachers have had the freedom to choose whether to financially support a government union. Their freedom to choose was reinforced on June 27, 2018 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Mark Janus in Janus v. AFSCME.

But there’s an information gap regarding this choice and what it means for teachers and their rights. Three in four teachers have not heard of Janus v. AFSCME, according to a national poll of 1,003 teachers conducted by YouGov on behalf of Teacher Freedom. Fifty-two percent of teachers surveyed thought they were required to pay dues to a union to keep their jobs.

The poll also revealed several misconceptions teachers have about what happens if they leave the union. For example, just over a third of teachers believed the terms of the negotiated collective bargaining agreement would no longer apply to a teacher who is not a union member. Twenty-five percent believed a non-member would not receive any pay increases negotiated by the union. Both beliefs are false.

All employees—regardless of union membership status—are covered by the union contract that dictates wages, benefits, hours and working conditions. The union is the exclusive representative of all employees in the bargaining unit and must represent all employees in good faith. Because the teachers’ union fought for, and won, the exclusive right to be the bargaining agent for both members and nonmembers, no one else can represent all employees in the unit. In fact, the union has pushed back against reforms that would change this forced representation.

According to the poll, 84 percent of teachers believe they should be able to join or leave a union at any time, but only 30 percent say it’s easy to resign from the union. Minnesota teachers are still bound by an annual union resignation “window” that limits when they can exercise their choice regarding union membership.

Minnesota teachers are restricted to opting out from September 1-September 30, during their busiest time of the year. Thankfully, there are resources to help teachers who want to learn about their options. If you are an educator wondering if union membership is the best choice for you, visit EducatedTeachersMN.com to learn about the pros and cons of union membership, and how to stop paying union dues.

It is important teachers understand their rights regarding union membership. The Janus decision empowers educators to make the right choice for them, their profession, and their students.