Teaching Profession Opinion

Death, Taxes, and Union Dues: We All Have to Pay Our Due

By Phylis Hoffman — July 14, 2015 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

I have been putting off writing this week. I didn’t want to bore you by talking about something that’s already been given a lot of press. I tried to think of other things to write about but I keep coming back to the same topic, the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) agreeing to hear the case of Friedrichs v. CTA.

I was waiting to see if I could come up with anything new to say and finally decided that I may not surprise you with what I have to say but I want to put my thoughts out there.

I agree with a lot of what’s been written. This isn’t just a case about exercising first amendment rights. It’s about reigning in the power of unions, especially public employee unions. The headline from the SCOTUS Blog, “New threat to public employee unionism” says it right there in black and white. Randi Weingarten’s blog, headline also agrees with the SCOTUS blog. But it doesn’t mince words, “They want to break our unions.” As alarming as her headline is I have to agree with her.

Enough’s been said about how unions will be damaged across the country if all their employees are given a blank check to pay dues or not. I think the larger issue perhaps may be is if a state chooses to have public employees represented through a collective bargaining process doesn’t this automatically justify the necessity for public employee unions in the interest of the public good. How would public employees be given fair pay, health benefits, retirement, etc. if not through the negotiations done via their unions. Union dues in a collective bargaining state is like death and taxes, something all public employees must do. Do you think your fresh out of college twenty-something year old, who takes a job with this year’s hot new startup company, would voluntarily pay income taxes, unemployment insurance, or social security? There’s a reason we have the IRS, to insure that Uncle Sam gets the fair share it needs for the public good.

I don’t see eye-to-eye with CTA on a number issues too, but I am not taking them to court. Instead I am serving on my local union’s House of Representatives to work for change. I am meeting with members of the state legislature and California Teachers Association (CTA) state representatives to work on changes to issues like teacher evaluations, teacher tenure, etc. My outreach efforts have only been underway for the last 6 months so I can’t say I’ve changed policy. But I am hopeful that at least for now I’ve gotten some folks to think differently.

I also believe that just like I don’t like my tax money to pay for things I don’t support, it’s something I have to live with. I can shape what my taxes pay for by exercising my right to vote in the democratic process of my state and country. The same thing happens with our teacher unions. We, the members of the union, vote for our representatives.

I really tried to look at this from lots of angles pro-union, anti-union, first amendment rights, etc. But again I keep coming back to the fact that California is a state who has it’s public employess represented through collective bargaining agreements. Unions hammer out these agreements. So this is what I need to say about Friedrichs v. CTA: In my opinion, agency fee payers can stop paying union dues when they can show, that they, and their students, have never benefitted from the union’s representation. Paying your taxes, I’ll defer to the constitution.

The opinions expressed in Teaching While Leading are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.