GA Teacher associations rank 45 of 50 for power & influence

GA Teacher associations rank 45 of 50 for power & influence

Thanks to Maureen Downey for posting this blog about GA’s teacher’s associations and their power in GA last year. Quite a few things to note.

The Fordham Institute & Education Reform Now collaborated on a study called How Strong Are U.S. Teacher’s Unions? A State-by-State Comparison from October 2012.

Interesting notes from the report:

Here are a few highlights:

• Teacher strikes, like the one recently concluded in Chicago, are legal in fourteen states and illegal in thirty-seven.

• Thirty-two states require local school boards to bargain collectively with their teachers, fourteen states permit local boards to do this, and five states prohibit collective bargaining altogether (Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia).

• Twenty-three states are “right to work” states, which prohibit unions from collecting agency fees from nonmembers.* Twenty-eight jurisdictions allow agency fees.

My guess is that the states that allow teacher strikes also are the ones that require collective bargaining. Just to be clear, by “require” it means that someone got the legislature to make it law that districts collectively bargain. You can actually run a district without such requirement. This is where the impression of self preservation is deeply ingrained for me. The unions have helped make it required that LEA’s collectively bargain – and that they will be paid by every employee on their union rolls and and the 28 states that allow for agency fees.

Georgia is one of the few hold outs in allowing unions to form. I’m actually surprised that AL, MS, and LA next door aren’t also in that camp.

GA union power in chart

This study also clarifies for me “right to work.” I thought it meant that there couldn’t be any unions there, but it apparently means that you don’t have to pay agency fees if you are not part of the union. The agency fee is the 60-70% of the union dues that unions collect simply for you benefiting from the bargaining process even if you are not a member. I have spoken at length about these issues, see here. 

As you can see GA teacher associations are listed 45 of 50 in terms of influence in power. Their best rating is of state policies that align with union policies, which seems odd for a state that has seemingly little power. Or it just means that in GA we really don’t need unions to reach policies we can all agree with.

Love this graphic!

teacher union power across US

Taken from Downey’s summary here are the notes on GA:

“Georgia’s teacher associations are weak across the board, not surprising in a state in which collective bargaining is prohibited — and whose politics are fairly conservative. They have few resources and a weak reputation. While teacher employment policies are somewhat union-favorable, charter laws are not, and the associations stayed out of the way when lawmakers enacted reforms en route to receiving Race to the Top award.

Georgia’s two state-level teacher associations (one affiliated with the NEA, the other with the AFT) have limited financial and membership resources. Collective bargaining is prohibited in the state, and just 54.8 percent of its teachers belong to teacher associations (41st of 51 jurisdictions). They bring in $87 per Georgia teacher annually (49th, ahead of just Texas and South Carolina).

On the other hand, Georgia spends a relatively large portion of its state budget on K-12 education (24.4 percent, placing it 9th). Total per-pupil spending is on the low side of the middle ($9,827 per year; 38th), but a relatively high proportion of those dollars goes to teacher salaries and benefits (57.5 percent; 7th)

Compared to teacher unions in other states, Georgia’s associations are not particularly involved in state politics. In the past decade, just 0.33 percent of contributions to candidates for state office came from them (34th); these donations made up only 2.9 percent of the funds contributed by the ten highest-giving sectors in the state (37th). In addition, the associations gave only 0.34 percent of the contributions to state political parties (42nd). Finally, 13.4 percent of Georgia’s delegates to the Democratic and Republication national conventions identified as teacher union members (25th).

Georgia is one of only five states that explicitly prohibit collective bargaining. Although teachers can opt to join local and/or state professional associations those entities may not automatically collect agency fees from non-members who work in districts they represent (a limitation that contributes to the low association revenues.) The state also prohibits teacher strikes.

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“Everyone’s voice matters” unless you don’t want to be a union member

“Everyone’s voice matters” unless you don’t want to be a union member

©Depositphotos.com/Margaret Paynich

©Depositphotos.com/Margaret Paynich

Well, well, well…here is an email Randi sent out today to supporters….and some of my comments.

Randi:

Make no mistake: This case is not about individual liberty or the First Amendment. It is an outright attack against unions to prevent us from representing our members and using our voices to fight for our families, our schools, our colleges, our healthcare facilities and our communities.

First of all this case is about staff who do not want to be members. But since you point it out, I think you would be serving your members BETTER with voluntary dues because you would need to actually listen to them ALL and not just the policy wonks in DC to craft your policy. And the fact that in CA you have to pay the whole amount up front and then go through a cumbersome process to get a refund? I want to keep all my money for myself. I shouldn’t have to pay ahead and get my money back. The Government does that but unions ARE NOT THE GOVERNMENT. Though they certainly act like the are.

Randi:

This case would undermine our unions and challenge nearly 40 years of precedent—and the court agreed to hear it barely a year after it dealt a blow to workers with its decision in Harris v. Quinn. In fact, the conservative justices on the court used the Harris v.Quinn ruling to invite cases like this one, showing just how political they really are.

40 year old precedent means times have changed and we don’t need that 40 year old law anymore. Unions had a role, but it’s getting outdated and they don’t want to give up their enormous power over the government. Well they don’t have control of the Supreme Court and I would say the “blow” from Harris vs Quinn is a further indication that you’re going to keep losing. How many times have teachers unions sneakily support candidates and campaigns? And you are calling the lawyers “political”? Better look in the mirror.

Randi:

In the end, this case comes down to a fundamental question: Do unions have a right to collect a fair share from the people we represent, to ensure that we’re able to speak for all workers?

Define “fair share”. I don’t think 60-70% of the total dues is fair. I haven’t seen an accounting of how all those funds are spent. Maybe if you didn’t spend years on end stonewalling negotiations it wouldn’t cost so much to collectively bargain. Maybe you just need to spend 60-70% unnecessarily so you can justify continuing to collect it. Also, you’ve done such a good job of enacting terrible laws like salary scales and tenure that all those benefits are already there. If you want to say that teachers are benefiting from your negotiation for the whole, why can’t that member just negotiate for his/her self instead? 

Randi:

The attack on labor by those who don’t want working families to have a voice has intensified. It has moved from the statehouse to the courthouse. But our affiliates understand that engaging our communities and our members, and organizing new members, are the key to repelling those attacks and growing a strong middle class.

These people DO want these teachers to have a voice. You are smothering them with your forced dues. These lawyers are the only ones standing up for teachers who don’t want to be in the union. You are not standing for those teachers. You are literally standing on a wad of bills smothering them. Get off of them. Collect your money voluntarily. And actually listen to ALL of the teachers, not just the ones who help you make your case. Plenty of teachers aren’t being heard by YOU. 

Randi:

I’m proud that, at times like these, the AFT is still growing. We passed the 1.6 million mark last summer

Um, that’s because teachers are leaving you and you have to make up your cash with other disciplines…..

Randi:

and like AFT Michigan, which has held strong despite the so-called right-to-work law in place there.

I’m amazed even mentioned Michigan, while your cohort MEA is literally ruining the credit of teachers who don’t want to be part of the union as retribution for a law that PROTECTS workers by letting them choose to be part of the union or not to be.

“Everyone’s voice matters” unless you don’t want to be a union member.

Supreme Court to hear Friedrichs v. CTA in next session!

Supreme Court to hear Friedrichs v. CTA in next session!

©Depositphotos.com/Margaret Paynich

©Depositphotos.com/Margaret Paynich

I’ve written extensively about the fact that union dues should be voluntary, not mandatory, and not automatically deducted from bank accounts.

CA case against union dues pursues U.S. Supreme Court

Will someone please explain these “agency fees” numbers?

Is your union looking out for teachers or for its own pocket?

Auto-deduction of dues contract language adds to perception issue

Agency fee paying employees across public sector unions

Today, the Supreme Court announced it will hear the case Friedrichs v. CTA this fall and potentially overturn the “Abood” ruling allowing unions to collect “agency fees” for collective bargaining support. Still no one can explain to me why and where the 60-70% of the fee goes to specifically support collective bargaining and nothing else.

Center for Individual Rights reports:

The suit claims state “agency shop” laws, which require public employees to pay union dues as a condition of employment, violate well-settled principles of freedom of speech and association. While many teachers support the union, others do not and the state cannot constitutionally compel an individual to join and financially support an organization with which he or she disagrees.

The other problem with the forced dues is that the opt-out system is sooo cumbersome it discourages teachers opting out. In CA you can only be refunded the extra political portion, you can’t opt out of paying it in the first place. In Michigan, there is a small window to withdraw and when you miss it, they were sending teachers to collection agencies. MEA attempts to ruin credit of 8,000 teachers

Center for Individual Rights reports:

 

To opt out of the thirty percent of their dues that even the union concedes is used for overtly political activities, teachers must must file for a refund each year according to a precise procedure that effectively discourages its use. As a result, many teachers contribute hundreds of dollars in dues each year to support political positions in a variety of areas having nothing to do with education and with which many of them disagree.

Lastly, all of collective bargaining is political, everything the union asks for from work hours, to pay, to evaluations….and all of those issues can conflict with a teacher’s personal political views. I have not seen a budget that breaks down how the collective bargaining monies are spent vs the mammoth amount of political spending.

Center for Individual Rights reports:

Typically, California teacher union dues cost upwards of a $1,000 per year. Although California law allows teachers to opt-out of the thirty percent or so of their dues devoted to overt political lobbying, they may not opt out of the sixty to seventy percent of their dues the union determines is devoted to collective bargaining. Requiring teachers to pay these “agency fees” assumes that collective bargaining is non-political.  But bargaining with local governments is inherently political.  Whether the union is negotiating for specific class sizes or pressing a local government to spend tax dollars on teacher pensions rather than on building parks, the union’s negotiating positions embody political choices that are often controversial.

Agency fee paying employees across public sector unions

Agency fee paying employees across public sector unions

John Thompson challenged me to look at other public sector unions, after accusing me of singling out teachers unions for political purposes.

In this watchdog.org article, the author demonstrates that over 250,000 public sector workers had their agency fee dues forcibly taken from their paychecks.

Public-sector unions took forced dues from more than 250,000 public employees in 2013, some, but not all, of the labor unions that take mandatory “agency fees” from public employees must report the number of agency fee payers to the U.S. Department of Labor each year.

American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees had 130,920 agency fee payers in 2013 while National Education Association had 88,378. Service Employees International Union reported 243,799 agency fee payers. Many of the employees represented by SEIU work in the private sector.

DOL defines agency fee payers as “those who make payments in lieu of dues to the reporting labor organization as a condition of employment under a union security provision in a collective bargaining agreement.” Public-sector unions can impose agency fees in 23 states.

The writer goes on to say what too many folks are hesitant to admit these days:

“Unions were first developed years ago to protect workers but too often, in today’s world, they exist solely for one thing and one thing only — raw, crass political power,” Brett Healy, president of the Wisconsin-based MacIver Institute, told Watchdog.org via email. “Big Labor bosses are more worried about supplying politicians with donations than the wellbeing of the rank-n-file or what is best for the rest of us — the taxpayers.

Remember, Unions first constituent is the employee, not students, or patients, or tax payers – but to the employee. It’s about self preservation – even if the unions agreed that they were outdated and perhaps unnecessary, who is going to give up a position of power (with taxpayer money) or the 600 employees with 6 figure salaries?

I just wrote about the language in the Lawrence teacher’s contract and how I didn’t like how the funds were transferred from district to union. Here is another reason why:

Determining the total number of agency fee payers nationwide is difficult because certain public-sector unions — including those with less than $250,000 in revenue — are exempt from many DOL reporting requirements.

Additionally, American Federation of Teachers and other large unions representing government workers do not report a total number of agency fee payers because of the way workers’ money flows to each union’s headquarters through state and local chapters.

Hmmm, might this have anything to do with the fact that the agency fee is the same for members and non members? Bet it gets more confusing when the lump sum is transferred from school district to union – the accounting must get lost in translation. And is NEA can report agency fee payers, AFT can’t figure it out.

Bain v CTA is addressing the issue of having to contribute to a political organization you may not agree with:

“Why should one be forced to hand over their hard-earned money to a political organization they may not agree with? We live in the land of the free not the land of forced association,” Healy said.

“Luckily in Wisconsin, Act 10 has put rank-n-file government workers and the taxpayers back in charge. Government unions are not allowed to forcibly remove any dues or fees from a worker’s paycheck,” Healy added. “If an employee wants to be in a union, they can write the check themselves.”

Yes, just let them write the check themselves in a voluntary manner. Then unions can demonstrate their value and listen to more of their public employees when making policy decisions. With auto-deduction of member and agency fee payers – there is little incentive to work harder to listen to employees.

The article also has an extensive list of various states public unions and their number of agency fee payers for 2013.