One of the greatest things about America is that we are free to elect our own government representatives. Anyone who is considered an adult and a United States citizen is allowed to vote for the people who will make the laws of the land.
Abraham Lincoln once said, “No man is good enough to govern another man without that other’s consent.” (1) Freedom of choice is the basis of our Constitution.
The first Amendment to the U.S. Constitution outlines certain basic rights which all citizens enjoy. One of these is the freedom of association. This amendment includes our right to join or unite with others for a variety of reasons, such as clubs or labor unions.
In spite of these constitutional guarantees, working persons today can be required to support a labor union in order to get or keep their jobs. The Supreme Court has allowed infringement of public school teachers’ rights by requiring them to pay their share of “exclusive representation” costs. (2)
The two education labor unions are the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), which is affiliated with the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO).
NEA and AFT union chiefs have openly stated they do not want anyone who is not a union member to teach in the nation’s schools.
A former NEA president once said, “Within ten years, I think this organization will control the qualifications for entrance into the profession, and for the privilege of remaining in the profession.” (3)
In 19 states across the country, there exist laws which allow teacher union officials to extract forced dues from teachers.
Union leaders organize representation elections in school districts. If they win a representation election by even 50% plus one of those voting, they have obtained the power to negotiate contracts on behalf of all teachers in the district.
In many school districts, the union will become the “exclusive representative” for every teacher in the district, whether that teacher voted for the union or against it. Teachers lose their individual freedom to decide what is best for them when a teacher union is made the exclusive representative.
Many times, teachers and school representatives do not agree with the contract, but they have no choice but to abide by the contract or quit their jobs. Their freedom to choose is violated.
Unions make monopoly bargaining look like a great service they perform for seemingly nothing. Teachers, however, must pay for these services with dues. Dues can total almost $600 per school
Why do union leaders want exclusive representation in school districts? Because exclusive representation can lead to total control over all teachers in a district, even to determine who will teach and who will be fired.
Some states allow teacher union officials to negotiate “forced dues” clauses into contracts. No matter what it is called, “agency shop”, “fair share”, or union security, this practice is compulsory unionism.
Union officials who demand forced dues, or “agency shop” clauses, claim all teachers get the same benefits and therefore should pay for the union’s representation, regardless of whether it is wanted or not. They will complain about the “burden” of representing teachers who are not actual union members, even though these officials have demanded that their union be the exclusive representative.
Union officials may give up many benefits in order to win a forced dues clause in a contract. Forced dues money increases the union’s income and is available for any use union officials may devise. In many cases, millions of dollars collected in the form of forced dues will to go advance political and non-educational programs that teachers do not support.
A Right to Work Law protects teachers from being forced to join or support a labor union in order to teach. For example, Tennessee Code Ann., § 50-1-201 through 204.
> It shall be unlawful for any person, firm, corporation, or association of any kind to deny or attempt to deny employment any person, by reason of such person’s membership in, affiliation with, resignation from, or refusal to join or affiliate with any labor union or employee organization of any kind. (Enacted 1947.)
> . . . It shall be unlawful for an person, firm, corporation or association of any kind to enter into any contract, combination or agreement, written or oral, providing for exclusion from employment of any person because of membership in, affiliation with, resignation from, or refusal to join or affiliate with any labor union or employee organization of any kind. (Enacted 1947.)
> . . . It shall be unlawful for any person, firm, corporation, or association of any kind to exclude from employment any person by reason of such person’s payment of or failure to pay dues, fees, assessments, or other charges to any labor union or employee organization of any kind (Enacted 1947.)
Independent, nonunion professional educator groups have been established in many states. These groups are providing teachers and student teachers with benefits comparable to those of the NEA and AFT, at lower dues. Many do not support any political agenda or ideas which do not directly affect education. They may also provide liability insurance protection for members, which is comparable to that offered by the NEA and AFT.
Some states have enacted laws concerning liability insurance for student teachers. You may be approached by professors or unions representatives and told you must have this insurance before you may student teach. It is a good idea to check with your department heads or university officials before you decide to join any organization solely in order to obtain liability insurance.
Whether to join a union is a decision you may have already had to make upon entering the Teacher Education program at your school. Some of you will be required to support a union and its affiliates, if you choose to become a teacher in certain districts in many states.
Teachers who believe in freedom of choice say they are captive passengers because they are forced to accept representation they do not want. They believe if union officials consider it a burden to represent them, then they should only be allowed to represent their members, and nonmembers should be allowed to speak for themselves.
Right to Work laws guarantee every teacher (and other workers) the right to join a labor union, as well as the right not to join or support one. Thus individual liberty and freedom of choice, as set forth in our Constitution, is upheld for teachers and other workers.
There is no need for teacher Right to Work laws when teachers’ unions are not given monopoly bargaining or exclusive representation rights. Without such rights teachers’ union have no basis whatsoever to claim forced dues from nonmember teachers.
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(1) Speech in Peoria, IL, October 16, 1854
(2) Abood v. the Detroit Board of Education
(3) George Fischer, NEA Union past president, speaking at the 1970 NEA convention
(4) Dues for Hawaii State Teachers Association – $518.94 (includes national, state and local statutory. NEA Handbook 2002-2003, p. 82)
(5) NEA Strategic Focus Plan & Budget, Fiscal Year 1997-1998