Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Union Nonsense: A California Teacher's Viewpoint

Over at joannejacobs.com, they are having quite a discussion about teachers unions, and whether or not they can ever be positive advocates of educational reform.

I am a classroom teacher in south-eastern California, and have served the students and parents of my district for 13 years. Like most California public school teachers, my district is forced to deduct from my paycheck union dues from three different organizations: The National Education Association,
The California Teachers Association, and the ______ Elementary Teachers Association.

As a classroom teacher that is forced to pay these substantial union dues, I have made the following observations about these unions in general, which I have referred to in the past as
legalized syndicates.

  • Even if I choose to not formally join the union, because nearly all California school districts are "closed shops" I cannot withhold dues. An equal amount will be taken out of my paycheck by the district, whose hands are tied by the law. Since dues have been going up every year, the combined union dues will reach well over $900.00 this year.
  • The rank and file have no say in how much those dues will be, as we are never given an opportunity to vote for any proposed increase.
  • Union officers are not elected by the membership at either the state or national levels. A secretive (and appointed by the President) "nominating committee" prepares a slate of "approved" candidates for union office. The slate of "candidates" is then presented to a convention of union activists who rubber-stamp the nominees. As only one candidate appears on the ballot, all union "elections" are uncontested and therefore mere formalities.
  • Neither national, state, nor local unions ever poll their membership regarding dues increases, political positions, or endorsements of political candidates. (Almost always, both CTA and NEA endorse candidates of the Democratic Party. The union will not disclose to its membership how much those candidates receive in the form of P.A.C. money.)
  • The salaries of union officers and operatives are not disclosed to the membership, and we here at the 'Wonks have been trying to learn how they receive in compensation for several months, but to no avail.
  • Both national and state unions refuse to disclose their expenditures to members, despite repeated requests by ourselves and others.
  • Salaried Union honchos (and this includes national and state officers as well as full-time operatives) enjoy lifetime free health insurance, a benefit that very few classroom teachers receive, even after decades of service.

As long as teachers unions remain anti-democratic organizations, it is highly unlikely that they will ever be agents of positive educational reform, regardless of their public protestations to the contrary. NEA Autocrat Reg Weaver and Barbara Kerr, The Unelected Empress of CTA , being the selected not elected leaders that they are, will continue to resist any and all attempts to democratize their organizations and be accountable to the thousands of teachers that are forced to hand-over substantial parts of their paychecks each and every month.

The National Education Association and The California Teachers Association remain, to us here at The Education Wonks, legalized syndicates that continue to extort "protection money" (and spend it in undisclosed ways) from many classroom teachers against their wishes.

Additional Commentary: Right on the Left Coast, here and here

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