As teachers maneuver through the many challenges and burdens that come with the teaching profession, it’s important they feel supported. This support must include respect for their personal choices regarding union membership.
Just as educators encourage their students to be independent thinkers and hold true to themselves, so too should educators be trusted by their colleagues to make decisions that are best for them and their families. Unfortunately, not all of those in the education field exhibit this respect and instead succumb to name-calling such as “free riders” or “scabs.”
We are not aware of any educator who wants to be a “freeloader” or take advantage of others. Teachers are in the education field because of their desire to serve others.
Which makes these disparaging accusations so disappointing. They do not help elevate the teaching profession, and because they stem from misleading messaging, they are completely disingenuous. Public-sector unions fought for—and won—the right to represent all employees, regardless of union membership status. Because government unions have exclusive representation rights as a matter of law, they collectively bargain on behalf of both members and nonmembers. This exclusive representative relationship and the collective bargaining framework have not been evaluated by public employees or lawmakers since their formal enactment in 1971.
For example, teachers have not had the opportunity to vote for, or against, union representation in many generations. This leaves the union as the exclusive representative, and the employee does not have the choice to represent him or herself. The union speaks for them, in their name, and on their behalf. This forced representation creates the “free rider” claims the union complains about.
Instead of assuming the worst in our civil servants by calling them “freeloaders,” shouldn’t unions ask themselves why these public employees are looking for an exit?