When I first accepted employment with Community High School District #218, I joined the teacher’s union. It was presented to me as something everyone did. I did not think about that decision very much or investigate it at all. Later that year though, I stumbled across some disturbing information. It was the National Education Association’s resolutions from their annual convention. The resolutions read like a leftist manifesto and included this:
I-17. Family Planning. The National Education Association supports family planning, including the right to reproductive freedom. The Association also urges the implementation of community-operated, school-based family planning clinics that will provide intensive counseling by trained personnel.
There were other resolutions as well almost as offensive (and mostly having nothing to do with education). I also discovered to my horror that a portion of my union dues were being donated to Planned Parenthood to promote abortion. Beyond that, I found the union spent hundreds of millions of dollars of its member’s dues supporting political causes and candidates that I opposed. I immediately resigned from the union and instructed payroll to stop deducting union dues from my check. Payroll readily complied with my request, and for the next several years, I had nothing further to do with the union. Then “fair share” was added to the contract.
The union’s building representative appeared at my classroom door that fall, and asked me if I was planning to join up since now I would have to pay union dues anyway. Most public school union contracts contain a provision euphemistically called “Fair Share.” Fair Share creates what is called an “agency shop.” In an agency shop, all employees covered by the union-negotiated contract are required to either formally join the union and pay union dues or, if not joining the union, pay an agency fee that the unions typically set at 100% of the dues charged to union members. These kinds of coercive arrangements are illegal in the twenty-four states that have Right to Work laws, but unfortunately, Illinois is not one of those twenty-four states.
I considered whether I would have to quit my job, but then a colleague told me about the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. I called them, and they informed me how I could keep my job and still be true to my beliefs. They represented me in filing a formal objection with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board. This resulted in a partial refund of the annual dues with the remainder donated to a charity that the union and I had to agree on. The union would not get one dime. The whole process was quite easy, and I could keep my job with a clear conscience.
If you are a teacher with conservative values and you work in a unionized public school district with “fair share,” you do not have to accept the diversion of your hard-earned dollars to promote causes and candidates that offend you. There are several things you can do:
- Resign from the union and file an objection to the “fair share” agency fee. Since by law the union must prove the fee is used entirely for contract related expenses (and the union knows that it is not), you will get a substantial refund of that portion used for politics. Further, if your objection to paying the union is religiously-based, any remaining agency fee (even that part used for contract-related expenses) must be donated to a charity you and the union must agree on. Contact the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation for help on this. They will gladly represent you in your objection without charge.
- Let your local school board know how you feel. There is nothing fair about “fair share.” Fair share is bargained at the local level, and the school board can and should insist that it be removed from the contract when it comes up for renegotiation. An open shop allows all employees a choice about whether to join and support the union or not. Allowing the union to coerce everyone to pay dues hurts employee morale. If the union is strong and has the voluntary support of its members, it does not need fair share, and if it needs fair share, it does not deserve it.
- Talk to your colleagues. Do not be afraid to speak up. Whether union or nonunion, every employee is hurt by “fair share.” Fair share permits the union to arrogantly disregard member interests and to raise dues with impunity. Union dues have more than doubled since fair share was put in place in my district. Fair share can also be used as a bargaining chip in contract negotiations. To keep fair share in the contract this year, the union in my district caved in on several issues of interest to the rank and file members. The rank and file should insist fair share be removed so that it cannot be used against their interests.
If you are a teacher or you know of a teacher with conservative values who works in a unionized school district, please share this information with them. No one should have to accept union abuse or see their hard-earned dollars go to causes they find offensive or that violate their religious beliefs.
Jerry Kohn is a teacher at H.L. Richards High School in Oak Lawn, Illinois. Feel free to contact him at email@example.com if you have any questions or comments.
Editors Note: For Illinois teachers, you can also learn more about obtaining your refund at TeacherUnionRefund.com