Stan Greer: Union bosses keep seizing dues from educators who’ve resigned

This commentary is by Stan Greer, newsletter editor for the National Right to Work Committee.

For more than 40 years, the U.S. Supreme Court sent a disturbing message to educators and other public servants in states without state-level Right to Work protections: You can resign from a union if you disagree with it, but even if you resign you will still have to bankroll the union.

Fortunately, in its 2018 Janus v. AFSCME ruling, the High Court finally admitted it had been wrong in 1977’s Abood v. Detroit Board of Education to give a judicial green light to forced extractions of union fees from nonmembers as a condition of public employment.

Agreeing with the team of plaintiff’s attorneys led by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation’s William Messenger, the Janus court found that compelling a public servant to support a union financially, or face termination, violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

Since Janus, hundreds of thousands of educators have exercised their constitutional right not to bankroll the National Education Association (NEA) or American Federation of Teachers (AFT) affiliated union that wields monopoly-bargaining power in their school district. In 2018 alone, the massive NEA, America’s largest teacher union, lost the revenue stream it had been taking in from 87,000 nonmembers. Previously, these educators had been forced under state law to fork over agency fees to state and local subsidiaries of the NEA and the NEA itself in order to keep their jobs.

Moreover, since the last pre-Janus academic year (2017-18), the NEA’s active working membership has fallen by roughly 130,000, from 2.626 million to 2.497 million.

The Janus-facilitated decline in NEA union bosses’ empire has accelerated over time. In the 2021-22 academic year alone (the last year for which teacher union membership data are available), the NEA union’s working membership fell by just over 40,000, while the AFL-CIO-affiliated AFT, the nation’s second-largest teacher union, lost more than 19,000 working members. These losses occurred even though public schools across the country increased their combined workforce by 125,000 between September 2021 and September 2022, according to U.S. Labor Department data.

Many teachers have ample reason to want to quit government unions, or never join in the first place.To take just one example, vast numbers of educators who are starting their careers are understandably appalled by union bosses’ relentless advocacy of “last in, first out” layoff policies. So-called “LIFO” provisions in union contracts and in Big Labor-backed state statutes effectively ensure only teachers with low seniority lose their jobs when enrollment declines or a budget shortfall occurs. Students’ academic needs, merit and effort are all tossed out the window.

Unfortunately, four-and-a-half years after Janus, it remains extraordinarily difficult in many states and school districts for educators who once joined a union, but later came to regret that decision, to cut off all financial support for that union by resigning their membership.

The vast majority of states today allow Big Labor bosses to trap teachers and other civil servants in so-called “automatic payroll deduction” schemes that block them from exercising their constitutional right to stop forking over money to the union for 350 or more days out of each year.

As a consequence, top teacher union bosses like NEA President Becky Pringle and AFT President Randy Weingarten can keep extracting forced fees from educators for months or even years after they quit the union.

But pro-Right to Work lawmakers and the National Right to Work Committee are fighting back. In state after state, the Committee is helping build support for legislation that bans “automatic payroll deductions” of union dues and fees and thus empowers employees to exercise their Janus rights without unjust hindrances.

In 2021, West Virginia adopted such a paycheck-protection law with Committee lobbying support.And the Committee looks forward to helping many other states adopt similar statutes over the next few years.

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2 thoughts on “Stan Greer: Union bosses keep seizing dues from educators who’ve resigned

  1. Grand theft by the democrat funding apparatus with government approval. Where is the courts that don’t see this for what it is, taxation without representation…

  2. I’m a teacher and bailed out of the union years ago. The breaking point was an email I received from the union that wanted to organize us to “march against ICE”. Another example of CRT-type thinking forced upon people in public education.

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