August 18, 2014. Lansing, MI. (ONN) For the first time since the boom of organized labor, less than half of America’s school teachers belong to a teachers union. And based on local news articles from around the country, that number would be even lower. Except the teachers unions are using tricks, gimmicks, threats and scams to force teachers to stay in a union they have repeatedly tried to quit. Teachers unions have a big problem. Right To Work laws are against them. Public sentiment is against them. And even half of their own fellow teachers are against them.
Teachers unions have resorted to shady tactics to stop teachers who want to leave the union. Image courtesy of EAGNews.org.
Two types of unions
Like the independents we are, Whiteout Press has a unique position on organized labor. We have two positions. As often as possible, we like to remind readers that there are two kinds of labor unions. There are corporate unions, where working class Americans battle hedge funds and wealthy foreign investors for a fair share of the billions of dollars in profits they themselves are generating. They often earn minimum wage or less, and are increasingly enrolling in welfare programs just to survive. More power to them.
Then there are government employee unions. They work for America and the American people. And there are no profits, only trillions of dollars in ever-mounting debt. And yet government employees have increased their numbers and pay so much over the past decade, they’ve literally replaced America’s middle class with what some call the ‘government employee class’. And from Detroit to Chicago to a host of California cities, those government employees and their unions are bankrupting America.
Teachers Union - most hated group in America
Back in 2010, a survey was done asking Americans what groups they hated the most. Finishing number one on that list was the public school teachers union. A report from Business Insider at the time cited no less than three just-released documentary movies which looked at why America’s public schools were so broken and dysfunctional and why teachers unions were so despised. Perhaps, one is a partial reason for the other.
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It isn’t only parents and taxpayers that dislike the teachers unions. A report from Reason.com earlier this year announced the results of an annual study that looks at the percentage of American teachers who are members of a teachers union. Back in the mid-1980’s and early 1990’s, roughly 58% of US teachers were members of a union. When the numbers from 2013 were released, they showed that for the first time, less than 50% of American teachers were union members
Thanks to never-ending PR campaigns insisting that teachers are underpaid and always deserve raises, most Americans believe just that. But the above account exposes the fact that teachers are actually better paid than most US workers and paid more than the average private sector employee. The researchers looked at the hourly pay rate for public school teachers in 66 major US cities. It found that teachers were paid an average of $34.06 per hour.
By comparison, they discovered that auto mechanics earn roughly 40% less than public school teachers. Journalists are paid 24% less. Architects are paid 11% less. Psychologists earn 9% less. And chemists make 5% less. The researchers note that the differences in pay don’t even include extremely generous and profitable perks that union teachers receive. They cite the security of tenure, a taxpayer-guaranteed pension and lifetime healthcare.
Leave the teachers union? Sorry, you can’t
More and more studies are showing that teachers are leaving the teachers union in droves. One estimate from USA Today put the number of teachers deserting their unions at 50,000 per year. When asked why, the most common reasons cited include their impression that they pay $750-$1,000 a year in union dues and get nothing for it. On top of that, they insist the union cares more about politics than teachers. They angrily point to multi-million-dollar contributions to left-wing Democrats or ballot initiatives for ever-higher taxes.
To slow the tide of teachers quitting the union, the various teachers unions have come up with tricks and threats to coerce their members into staying. One account from Watchdog.com two weeks ago described the nightmare Michigan teachers are being forced to go through just to quit. A 2012 ‘Right to Work’ law should have given them the ability just simply quit. But the Michigan teachers union only allows teachers to quit the union if they did so in writing, and only in the month of August. For teachers who fought back and refused to pay their union dues, the union sent them to collection agencies and allegedly threatened to destroy their credit ratings.
“Last year there were teachers and other school support personnel and other members of the MEA that wanted to exercise the right but were not informed that August was the only time they were able to do so,” one Michigan right-to-work advocate explained to the publication, “Because they missed the window, they were unable to exercise the right.” He reports that many Michigan teachers continuously try to leave the union, but aren’t aware of the brief one-month window.
One angry teacher described his own experience saying, “Early September, we got an e-bill statement from the union treasurer, the dues statement for the year. We said, ‘What? We’re not joining.’ We found it very convenient that we got it right at the beginning of September, when all the powers that be knew we had to do something in August.” That Michigan teacher isn’t making the same mistake this year.
Two-week window in Nevada
If Michigan’s one-month window for teachers to quit the teachers union wasn’t bad enough, Nevada teachers unions only give their employees a single two-week period in July each year to quit. ‘That two-week window is in the middle of summer when school-related activities are far from the minds of most teachers,’ Heartland.org reports, ‘That’s intentional. Union officials know that many teachers will leave if they can.’
The report details how Nevada’s largest teachers union, NPRI, has lost 1,400 teachers just in the past two years. And the authors insist many more would have left the union if they knew they had that option. For the union’s part, it has a financial interest in keeping its teachers in the organization. The loss of those 1,400 teachers is reportedly costing the union $1.1 million per year.
The authors also asked Nevada teachers who left the union why they did so. The replies varied on specifics, but usually pertained to the high cost of union dues. One teacher decided she could spend her $700 per year better than the union could and used it to make a mortgage payment. Another Nevada teacher said he didn’t quit the union, he just quit the Nevada teachers union. He says he gets better insurance and liability protection from a national teachers organization and it only costs him $180 per year.
The report also touched on a common predicament for many of America’s teachers - politics. In the case of Nevada, the state teachers union donated $1 million to a political campaign to pass a state tax increase to fund education, or in other words, teacher raises and teacher pension benefits. But many teachers also consider themselves taxpayers and they don’t share the same political views as the union. With privately funded PR campaigns now telling teachers when the window to leave is, it’ll be interesting to see just how big a hit the teachers unions take this year.