January 28, 2019 at 3:08 pm

Report reveals how Minnesota teachers are trapped by arbitrary union terms, forcing them to fund Education Minnesota’s partisan political spending

(Golden Valley, MN) A report released by Center of the American Experiment reveals how Minnesota teachers are trapped by arbitrary union terms, forcing them to fund Education Minnesota’s partisan political spending even after the Janus decision.

Last June, the U.S. Supreme Court in Janus v. Afscme said that public employers can no longer collect “fair-share” agency fees from employees who are not members of their workplace union. Minnesota public employers have complied with that order.

The court also said that public employers and unions should not assume that employees, including people who had previously signed union cards, have waived their First Amendment right to decline union membership. The reason is that all union activity, including collective bargaining, is highly political.

Yet Minnesota’s public employers have continued to deduct union dues without getting permission from employees to do so.

“The goal in publishing this report is to speak directly to teachers so they can understand their legal rights and evaluate for themselves the value of union membership,” said Kim Crockett, vice president and general counsel at the Center.

“The Supreme Court reaffirmed the right of teachers to decide for themselves whether to join and financially support the union. The State of Minnesota and the unions, however, are not going to tell teachers about their choice, so we will.”

The report describes how arbitrary union terms impact the First Amendment rights of teachers by locking them into supporting Education Minnesota. For example, union membership rules restrict teachers who want to resign to a seven-day window once a year. Exclusive representation, the collection of dues and PAC money and other aspects of the union membership enforced by public employers impact the First Amendment rights of teachers.

The report also describes in detail how Education Minnesota spends dues and PAC revenue on generous executive salaries and far-left candidates and political organizations.

For example, in 2015-2016, 71 percent of Education Minnesota’s staff of about 156 employees earned more than the average teacher, with 56 employees earning well over $100,000. In 2017, President Denise Specht earned $190,316 and an “organizer’s” salary jumped $15,355 to $127,830. A field staffer’s salary jumped $12,415 to $124,817.

PAC money, which is collected through union dues, goes almost exclusively to DFL candidates and causes, with an occasional, small donation to a Republican candidate. If a teacher wants a PAC refund, he or she must go through a difficult process designed to discourage refunds.

“Americans should not lose their civil rights when they go to work for the government,” said Crockett. “Unfortunately, it took the Court over forty years to restore public employees’ full First Amendment rights, but over those many years, government unions embedded themselves into the state and our schools. Janus is just the first step in restoring a proper balance. Teachers need practical information to decide whether to continue to fund Education Minnesota’s agenda.”

The Center’s report, “Education Minnesota, Union Membership and the First Amendment,” is available here.

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