Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Is that death knell for a union near you?

The Supreme Court has served notice that it will take up a case that threatens the ability of government employee unions to have dues checkoffs for everyone.   In many states, including California, all teachers must either belong to the union or pay a service fee that is equal to full dues minus the amount spent by the union for political activity.   Teachers have no choice, it is either full membership or the service fee.  A group of teachers from California are challenging this rule.  Their position is that all union activities are political in some manner; and therefore, they should not have support political activity they do not approve of.  The union's position is that all teachers benefit from the rewards it negotiates; so all teachers should pay to support it.  Teachers say their First Amendment rights are being violated.
Thirty-eight years ago the Court ruled that unions can require non-members to pay for collective bargaining costs so long as the fees don't go toward political activities and the unions are the lawful negotiating arm of the government workers.
Court watchers think next year could be the session when this decision is changed.  The Court is more conservative now and there is less national support for unions.
From my perspective, I would be delighted to see unions weakened.  If they lose the dues checkoff and service fees, many teachers may choose not to join.  Many join now because the service fees are almost as much as the full dues.  In my view there was a time when education unions served a real purpose.  Initially they functioned more like professional organizations and were a value to the profession.  Now they are clearly operating like a blue collar union.  The positions taken by the unions are almost always for the health and welfare of the teachers.  If they were a professional organization, their concerns would also include the children they serve.  But they don't.
Wonderful teachers need to be paid well.  Average teachers need to be paid a decent wage and lousy teachers should be paid not at all.  That can't happen with the unions in charge.   All teachers, the good, the bad and the ugly- get paid the same salary if they have the same experience and education.  Good teachers work very hard and they deserve merit pay for that hard work.  Unions support mediocrity and our kids deserve a lot better than that.

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