To the Editor:
The issue at stake between teachers in the state of Washington and the Washington Education Association cannot be boiled down to a question of whose First Amendment rights are more important (“Court Hears Case on Use of Fees by Teachers’ Union,” Jan. 17, 2007). The years of litigation the WEA has devoted to the fight for each dollar it can use on its political agenda clearly illustrate the union’s priority of protecting Big Labor to the exclusion of education.
This mixed representation exemplifies the fundamental disconnect between teachers and labor unions. Teachers are not laborers; they are academic professionals, much like doctors, lawyers, and engineers. Industrial-style unionism neither advances the respect and compensation that educators deserve nor improves the quality of education.
The case to be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court shows that teachers are willing to stand up for their rights. Trying to curtail the First Amendment free-speech rights of teachers is an especially egregious act for an organization that claims to represent them. Teachers deserve better.
Association of American Educators
Mission Viejo, Calif.
A version of this article appeared in the January 31, 2007 edition of Education Week as Court Case Tests Teacher Rights, Union Priorities