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.

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

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

© Paynich

© 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.

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

© Paynich

© Paynich

I’ve been deeply engaged in the issues around teacher’s unions dues. I recently discovered a variety of disturbing tactics in MI:

Union in Taylor, MI tried to circumvent right-to-work law and lost

MEA attempts to ruin credit of 8,000 teachers

Teachers Union puts up smoke screen while they deny workers their rights

Here is what has been playing out in CA:

Vergara v. California ruled in June that some of the teachers’ work rules—including tenure, seniority, and dismissal laws—violated the state and federal constitutions.

That same month, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation in Harris v. Quinn, holding that home healthcare workers could not be forced to pay agency shop fees to the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

Here’s commentary from the article:

Treu’s ruling in Vergara v. California inflicted a flesh wound on the teachers’ unions, but Harris sent them reeling. The only way that the Supreme Court’s five-to-four decision could have been worse for the unions is if the justices had decided to broaden it to cover all public employees, not just a subset of them. Instead, Justice Samuel Alito drew a distinction between the home workers and “full-fledged” public employees, who currently must pay dues as delineated in the court’s 1977 Abood v. Detroit Board of Education decision.

Note to John Thompson – Now I see exactly why union dues are compulsory – But just because it is law does not make it true! And here we have a case that may very well overturn Abood and then what will you say?

Friedrichs et al v. CTA pits ten teachers and a union alternative called the Christian Educators Association International against the powerful California Teachers Association. The lawsuit, filed in 2013 by attorneys working with the Center for Individual Rights, takes aim at California’s “agency shop” law, which forces teachers to pay dues for collective bargaining activities, though (per Abood) paying for the unions’ political agenda is not mandatory. The plaintiffs’ lawyers challenging the statute echo Alito’s point out that collective bargaining is inherently political, and therefore all union dues should be voluntary. The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in November issued an order that clears the way for the plaintiffs to petition the Supreme Court. If the justices grant certiorari, a decision could come in 2016.

And John Thompson, here is why all collective bargaining is inherently political – a much cleaner way to describe it than I did. Care to respond?

Alito’s opinion left the door open for a more expansive court ruling later. He noted that Abood (which holds that the state may force public-sector workers to pay union dues while carving out an exception for the funds that unions spend on political activity) is questionable on several grounds, and went so far as to suggest that collective bargaining issues are inherently political in the public sector. Alito explained, “In the private sector, the line is easier to see. Collective bargaining concerns the union’s dealings with the employer; political advocacy and lobbying are directed at the government. But in the public sector, both collective bargaining and political advocacy and lobbying are directed at the government.” Taking Alito’s reasoning to its logical next step, paying fees to a public-employee union would become voluntary in the 26 states, including California, where it’s now compulsory.

I’m excited to see if the Supreme Court accepts this case. I will be watching and maybe will even make a trip to DC for the case!