Has your union asked you to sign a union renewal agreement? Maybe you already signed one. Education Minnesota had forms filled out and waiting for every teacher in the state when they got back to school last fall.
Why is the union being so persistent in reaching out to teachers, asking you to sign a union form ASAP?
For example, teachers in Minneapolis got an email recently from the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers (MFT).
The email said,
“Hello. You are receiving this email because you are an active member of MFT, but have not yet filled out the online Education Minnesota renewal form. Roughly two-thirds of your colleagues completed this action. Please join join them now…. We are asking members to take this action to protect our Union from the imminent right to work threats we are currently facing and sadly will continue to face in the near future… Please do your part and fill out the form by clicking this link. Again, it’s super quick and easy…. Our goal is to have all our members renewed before Education Minnesota’s April 27-28 Representative Convention.”
The email went on to say:
“MFT believes is it much better to implement proactive actions like this one rather than being forced to take reactive measures similar to those that Wisconsin union members were forced to take when their state abruptly became Right-to-Work. As you all know, they incurred serious losses from which they are still struggling to recover. We’d like to take every precaution not to end up in the same situation.”
(We left the typos and awkward grammar in place.)
So, what is going on?
On February 26, the United States Supreme Court heard Janus v. AFSCME, a case that challenges mandatory union fees for public employees, including teachers. Mark Janus, the plaintiff, is a social worker in Illinois. He is forced to pay agency fees in order to keep his job.
You may recall that a teacher from California, Mrs. Rebecca Friedrichs, brought a similar case two years ago. But Justice Scalia died before the opinion was released.
Both Mark and Rebecca told the court that mandatory fees violate their First Amendment rights. They say that mandatory fees force them to support the political activity and agenda of the union, even if, in their opinion, it hurts them as teaching professionals and hurts K-12 education.
A decision is expected by the end of June; the bet is that Mark Janus and Rebecca Friedrichs are going to win.
Government unions like Education Minnesota, and their local and national affiliates like MFT and AFT and NEA, are worried that the Court will rule in favor of fully restoring the First Amendment rights of teachers that the Court took away decades ago.
The Court made a terrible mistake in 1977 when they said it was OK to impinge on the First Amendment rights of public employees by making teachers pay “agency fees.” The Court thought it was a fair compromise that avoided “labor unrest” and the problem of “free riders.”
Since when do we ask U.S. citizens to be forced to pay for the speech of others as a condition of employment, especially when they disagree? How would that sound to your students?
The Court opted to make teachers “forced riders” instead of respecting their rights as citizens.
The Court also gave the union a monopoly. Union executives and activists do not really care what many classroom teachers think because union fees are guaranteed. Maybe the union would care if they had to treat teachers as customers to be won instead of captives who can be tolerated and even ignored.
If Mark Janus wins, it means that union will have to ask for your business; it will have to find out what you want instead of telling you what the union wants. That will be good for teachers, good for students and good for the union.
But it will be a new way of doing union business.
So, the union is trying to do two things before the Court rules: first, it wants to lock in your membership and dues revenue. Education Minnesota took in about $60 million in revenue last year.
Note the language in the renewal form: it authorizes dues deductions “irrespective of union membership.” What does that mean?
Second, the union is trying to update its database so it has full contact information including the last four digits of your social security number, your cell phone and personal email address.
Even if you want to be a dues-paying member of the union, do not give out that personal information. The union does not need it to represent you; and the union could get hacked. Protect yourself; be smart.
If you are not sure, do not sign the renewal agreement. Tell your union that you want to understand what they are asking you to sign, and why. And tell them you are checking with your family lawyer for advice.
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