“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 Unions had a role, but it’s getting outdated and they don’t want to give up their enormous power over the government.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.

 

Auto-deduction of dues contract language adds to perception issue

Auto-deduction of dues contract language adds to perception issue

©Depositphotos.com/Margaret Paynich

©Depositphotos.com/Margaret Paynich

I wrote in this previous post that I feel teacher union membership and dues should be voluntary and that the auto-deduction of union dues from teacher salaries gives me the perception that the district is paying the union to negotiate contracts.

I also find it unfair that even when teachers opt out of union membership, they still are forced to pay through auto-deduction the near equivalent of union dues 60-70% of the whole dues as an “agency fee” for the collective bargaining services.

John Thompson references me in one of this TWIE posts and claims that I don’t know contract law and claims that I am only targeting teachers unions over political issues.

Paynich is unaware of both contract law and the ways that police, firefighters, and others negotiate common sense arrangements for collecting dues for unions and professional organizations. She incorrectly claims that, “Every other entity on the planet has to collect monies on their own, and unions should not get the unfair advantage of ease of payment.”

Paynich inexplicably writes, “I see it as taxpayer dollars going directly into the hands of unions with little or no say or control from the teachers unions are supposed to be protecting.” According to her reality-free appraisal of these contracts, “This seems like the LEA is paying the union to negotiate the contract with the LEA.”

Thompson claims that I’m singling out teachers unions. Maybe right now, but only because I haven’t had reason yet to analyze the others. Here is the beginnings of evaluation of fire services in RI, my home state, where there appears to be gross overages of equipment and personnel along with up side down pension liabilities.

And while I was looking at the Lawrence teachers contract for this post, I found this language:

ARTICLE 7

PAYMENT OF DUES AND COPE

The Union may secure authorization of payroll deductions for Union dues. Such authorization may be receivable as provided by law. The Union may also secure authorization of payroll deductions for a union COPE (Committee on Political Education) fund. In both instances, the Committee will request the Treasurer of the City of Lawrence to submit such sums in total to the Union Treasurer.

ARTICLE 8

PAYROLL DEDUCTIONS FOR AGENCY SERVICE FEE

As a condition of employment, members of the bargaining unit who are not members in good standing of the Lawrence Teachers’ Union, shall pay to the Lawrence Teachers’ Union an agency service fee equal to the amount required to become a member and remain a member in good standing in the Union. Such fee shall be considered commensurate with the cost of collective bargaining and contract administration. This provision is subject to any rules and regulations of the Massachusetts Department of Labor Relations.

The Committee will request the Treasurer of the City of Lawrence to submit such sums in total to the union treasurer? Sure, there is accounting going on to count it towards each teacher, but it just looks so much like tax payers are quite literally paying the union to negotiate for the teachers. From the perspective of perception, teacher’s aren’t paying these dues. But they should be – voluntarily.

 

This rhetoric is taking us in the wrong direction

This rhetoric is taking us in the wrong direction

A few months ago John Thompson wrote a tweet to me that was really offensive.

hatred of unionsContrary to what some think, especially, John Thompson I do not hate unions.

First, all I said was that I quit a job at a grocery store because I didn’t want to be in the union. And Thompson twists that into a “deeply rooted hatred” of unions. I simply did not want to pay the union fee, didn’t see the benefit. I already have and pay for a safety net, it’s called taxes and the city/state/federal government.

Did he fail to read this post where I talked about how I used to be blindly in support of teachers unions? Until I took a public policy class and realized often times teachers unions get in the way of teacher progress?

How does that read as a “deeply rooted hatred” of unions?

I don’t hate unions – I just don’t think they are helping advance education when they stand in the way of reform our kids desperately need. Or when they:

– Have 600 staffers nationally making 6 figure salaries on the backs of teachers

Secretly influence elections in the millions of dollars on the backs of teachers

– Do whatever their political agenda is without regard for teacher’s real interests

– Michigan Education Association pulling all sorts of antics to keep union members even if it means ruining teachers in the process

Teachers Union puts up smoke screen while they deny workers their rightsMEA attempts to ruin credit of 8,000 teachersYou believe every lie your union tells you, don’t you?Union in Taylor, MI tried to circumvent right-to-work law and lost

Tout the union line, even when they KNOW it’s hurting kids

– Advertise that they are working for great public schools for all students when the reality is that teachers are their client, not students

Withhold union member benefits when teachers disagree with union political strategy and choose not to make the political contribution in their union dues

Force teachers to pay union dues through payroll deductions making it almost impossible to opt out

Charge non-union members pretty much the exact same fee as voluntary union members and call it an agency fee for contract and negotiations work

Thompson – you know what I DO hate?

People who abuse people and animals, people who think not all kids can learn, people who participate in the child sex trade……must I go on?

This type of rhetoric is what is stalling progress – just like how anti-reformers harass pro-reformers at levels that are really unnecessary as noted in this post.

I think unions had a place and a time, but especially with teachers, the time has come to evolve or move on. Many of the protections unions offer are now part of employment law that every other citizen benefits from.

I am in complete support of district union collaboration – when it leads to a better education for all students – such as this post: School take over plan that is working – Lawrence, MA

Will someone please explain these “agency fees” numbers?

©Depositphotos.com/Margaret Paynich

©Depositphotos.com/Margaret Paynich

 

I have been asking this question for some time, with no answers. How is the percentage for “agency fees” calculated? How much money do they “need” for collective bargaining activities? I am very much doubt that the only monies used for political activities is the 30-40% paid in union dues for that purpose.

Lets look at some numbers. Below, this article tells me that CA union dues are ~ $1,000/teacher/year. This fact sheet tells me that the CTA that it represents ~ 325,000 educators. Let split the difference here: “they may not opt out of the sixty to seventy percent of their dues the union determines is devoted to collective bargaining” and just say 35 % political and 65% agency fees for “collective bargaining.”

$1,000 x 325,000 = $325,000,000!! so many zeros I was blinded by the computer trying to read them! OK so lets split that into political (35%) and agency fees (65%)

Political =  $113,750,000; Agency fees= $211,250,000

So we all know what they spent the political money on….but where does the $211,250,000 Million go to? Does it REALLY cost that much to pay staff to negotiate contracts and answer phones or whatever they are doing. Maybe it does when unions drag out negotiations (they have to allocate for the funds somehow!)

Do we not believe that $325 Million isn’t better spent by our teachers?

And lets not forget in this post I encountered numbers that state that “By contrast, nearly 600 staffers at the NEA and AFT are raking in six-figure salaries, according to Association of American Educators (AAE) Executive Director Gary Beckner.”

600 staffers between NEA and AFT making 6 figures. How many teachers are making 6 figures? How many teachers are making 6 figures and shouldn’t be and how many should be and are not?

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.

MEMBERSHIP:

CTA is California’s largest professional employee organization, representing more than 325,000 public school teachers, counselors, psychologists, librarians, other non-supervisory certificated personnel, and Education Support Professionals. It is affiliated with the 3.2 million-member National Education Association.

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

©Depositphotos.com/Margaret Paynich

©Depositphotos.com/Margaret 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
http://bestinterestofkids.com/2015/02/28/union-in-taylor-mi-tried-to-circumvent-right-to-work-law-and-lost/

MEA attempts to ruin credit of 8,000 teachers
http://bestinterestofkids.com/2015/02/28/mea-attempts-to-ruin-credit-of-8000-teachers/

Teachers Union puts up smoke screen while they deny workers their rights
http://bestinterestofkids.com/2015/02/28/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!