Each year Education Minnesota charges teachers $25.00 for its political action committee or “PAC.” There is also a $5 charge for the union’s Educational Foundation, donations to which are not tax deductible. If a teacher wants to get a refund to protect his or her constitutional right not to fund these union activities, it is not an easy process. And the refund must be requested every single year. Like teachers do not already have enough paperwork!
The Education Minnesota union card, now called a “Membership Renewal,” lists the deductions for the PAC and Foundation as part of union dues; but it does not offer teachers the right to “opt-out” of the deductions once and for all. It also requires teachers to file a form requesting another form or forms. The request form is available only in the October issue of The Minnesota Educator or upon limited request. Here is the fine print:
Education Minnesota Refund Request Hotline Message (Length 1:22) You have reached the Education Minnesota refund request hotline. The refund request forms for the political action committee and the Foundation for Excellence in Teaching and Learning appear in the October issue of The Minnesota Educator. This issue should be mailed to your home between the last week of September and the first week of October. To qualify for the refund, you must be an active member of Education Minnesota…. Only one set of forms may be requested per individual. You may not request multiple forms to be sent to you or request forms for others. Photocopies will not be accepted. These forms will not be available to Education Minnesota to mail out to you until the first week of October in the current school year. If you are calling to request copies please leave your name, including spelling, complete address, and the forms you wish to have sent. These forms will be mailed the first week of October. This date also applies to new members starting at the beginning of the school year. The forms must be mailed back to Education Minnesota post marked by October 31st. You can expect your refund check to be mailed by November 30th. If you join Education Minnesota mid-year, you have 30 days from the day you signed your membership to request the forms. Please state the date you signed your membership application on this message. Once you have received your refund forms, please submit within 30 days. Thank you.
Did you follow that? All for $30 bucks? What if a teacher moves and does not get the magazine? Or a new teacher has never heard about this? Why do you have to request a form with another form? What if you do not know the date you signed your union card?
Could the teachers’ union make this refund process any more aggravating?
This requirement imposes an unreasonable burden on the constitutional right of teachers not to fund a union PAC. The PAC by the way, took in $1.8 million in 2016, and $1.4 million in 2017. And virtually all the funds are expended on Democratic candidates or controversial groups like Planned Parenthood. The $25 for the PAC is not a lot of money but it is a matter of principle for teachers, and often more than people spend on politics. It should, in any event, be a matter of choice.
Many teachers who chose to join the union, do not want to fund the PAC or even the Foundation. Maybe they want to give to the Green Party, the GOP or no party at all. The solution is simple: The legislature should require the union to collect PAC money in a separate transaction from the union card each year. Why should the burden be on busy teachers?
A recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, Janus v. Afscme, strongly and broadly asserted the First Amendment rights of all public employee’s not to support union activities without first giving their affirmative consent. The full implications of the Janus case will not be known for many years. In the meantime, teachers and the legislators who represent them, should insist that the union adopt new customer friendly policies that are respectful of the rights and time of teachers.
Eliminating Education Minnesota’s PAC refund policy is a good place to begin. In fact, the union could surprise teachers this fall and rescind the policy without waiting to be told to do so by the legislature or a court. That would be a great back-to-school gift for teachers.
This commentary was published in the Wabasso Standard and Grand Rapids Herald Review. We admire and appreciate these important local and regional papers throughout Minnesota!