“To compel a man to furnish funds for the propagation of ideas he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.” – Thomas Jefferson
Since my days as a columnist for the Seattle Times, I’ve profiled courageous public school educators who have challenged the compulsory dues racket of their teachers’ unions. Here’s my 1999 column on how public school teachers in Washington state challenged their union over their political dues power grab. Here are your rights as a union worker. Here is a backgrounder on the permissible use of forced dues. As I wrote on Labor Day last year, free speech not only means the freedom to voice your political views, but also the freedom from being forced to pay for someone else’s. U.S. Supreme Court precedent established by the D.C.-based National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation guarantees the right to full financial disclosure from a union and a right to challenge the figures in court if they disagree.
On Sean Hannity’s Fox News television show last night, one of those brave teachers from the state of Ohio exposed how her union siphoned off her dues ($700 a year) to attack her husband, a GOP state legislative candidate whom the left-wing Ohio Education Association opposed:
You’ll recall that I shared Thompson’s plight last October:
I’m Jade Thompson and my husband, Andy Thompson, is running for the Ohio House of Representatives. I am a teacher at Marietta High School. Imagine my chagrin when my friends and colleagues began showing me the awful attack ads against my husband which they had received in the mail. Now imagine my dismay when I saw that those defamatory mailers were paid for by the Ohio Education Association – my teachers’ union. In effect, they are using my union dues to attack my husband! This is a new low, even for the OEA.
There was a recent letter to the editor about AEP withdrawing its support from the Ohio Chamber of Commerce because the chamber made a political endorsement. The writer found it “inappropriate and shameful” for that organization to ignore its members. I wonder if she would say the same for the OEA, an organization that endorses the most liberal candidates in the field and which month after month promotes progressive causes and programs in its member newsletter. Are Ohio’s teachers that unanimously liberal or does our union simply not represent our views at all? If teachers are representative of the larger voting public then you would expect that our political views would be just as diverse.
Teachers should be free to spend their hard-earned dollars to contribute to the candidates and causes they actually support. The OEA and its parent organization, the NEA, refuse to acquiesce because they have an obvious agenda. After all, as the general counsel for the NEA once said in federal court, “if you take away payroll deduction, you won’t collect a penny from these people, and it has nothing to do with voluntary or involuntary. I think it has to do with the nature of the beast, and the beasts who are our teachers … (They) simply don’t come up with the money regardless of the purpose.” Teachers, this is what your union thinks of you.
Jade Thompson is not alone. Across the country, there are thousands and thousands of teachers disgusted with the monopoly power-tripping of public employee unions whose politics they abhor.
Reader and teacher Mike Bennett of California writes:
I am a public school teacher for the Yucaipa/Calimesa School District in Southern California.
Since November of 2008 I have been trying to get some answers from the California Teachers Association as to how my dues are spent and why they continue to support the Democratic Party and paganistic liberal causes and propositions. I have been promised both responses from the President and Controller of the CTA yet have never received any!
I have continued to complain to my local union president and she keeps forwarding my complaints to the CTA. I have e-mailed the CTA asking what are the salaries of the employees of the CTA?
Again I get no response.
I have just sent a letter of complaint to the state controller (endorsed by the CTA), asking him to investigate the CTA. I don’t know if I will get much help from him either.
I wanted you to know that there are many teachers who do not want their money funneled from their check to support causes they are diametrically opposed to.
Reader and teacher Sondra Barnes shared her letter to Wisconsin GOP Gov. Scott Walker:
Dear Gov. Walker:
I am so sorry you are getting pounded by those teachers, students and unions. As a teacher in California, I got into trouble with the unions myself when I only asked a simple question.
I repeatedly tell everybody I know that they are crazy to give any more money to education/teachers/teacher’s unions. Here in Los Angeles, all we do is throw money at education and here we are at the bottom in the country. We only graduate 40% of our high school students and they can’t even read, do not know history or math, and more importantly cannot do any critical thinking.
What I see in the Los Angeles classrooms is pretty much just ideological brainwashing by a huge majority of their teachers– and yes, teaching their students to protest and to march. In my humble opinion, this is child abuse.
Please stand strong and do not let these union thugs beat you down. So many of us stand behind you.
Sondra Barnes, Van Nuys, CA
From the Milwaukee Sentinel-Journal, a telling chart on the Wisconsin Education Association Council’s political priorities and clout:
On top of being one of the state’s most dominant political forces, with an ability to influence legislation and elections, Wisconsin’s teachers unions have a direct effect on teacher quality through the role they play in local contract negotiations and representation of teachers targeted for improvement or dismissal.
By adhering to pay schedules that fail to distinguish between low- and high-performing teachers, protecting ineffective teachers from dismissal and fighting for work rules that provide more benefits for their members than for children, teachers unions stand in the way of improving the profession, critics argue.
…According to figures from the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, WEAC’s political action committee has spent more than $9 million in unlimited independent expenditures on behalf of political candidates between 1998 and 2008, with only $17,136 of that amount spent to help a single Republican candidate – one who was challenging a GOP Assembly incumbent.
In the November elections, the WEAC political action committee spent nearly $1.5 million to help Democrats in just four state Senate races, only to see three of them lose.
Higher-ed employee Jason Hart exposes where Ohio teachers’ dues money goes:
Who but a union would insist merit pay is the wrong way to encourage hard work and reward the best educators? That anyone capable of enduring several years as a teacher should have a job for life, with longevity raises on top? That charter schools and vouchers should never be tried? As with AFSCME Council 8 & Local 11, the OEA stands between Ohioans and the services our tax dollars fund.
Exciting OEA Facts, Fiscal 2009
* $22,771,159 paid to union officers and staff — equal to $176.71 per member
* 143 union employees paid more than $70,000
* 117 union employees paid more than $100,000
* 12 union employees paid more than $150,000
* Executive Director Larry Wicks paid $208,469
* Executive Director Dennis Reardon paid $202,997
* $8,151,341 spent on benefits — less than 36% of the amount disbursed to union officers and staff
* $25,000 given to Policy Matters Ohio, a far-left Cleveland think-tank (09/23/2008)
* $10,000 sent to Colorado education union (10/17/2008)
* $10,000 sent to Oregon education union (10/27/2008)
The OEA also found $1,614,690 in the couch cushions to donate to Democrat campaigns in the 2010 cycle, according to records from the Secretary of State.
It comes to this: should we buy the OEA’s sales pitch about outsized union influence being the route to effective education? Or should we resist demands to further increase taxes, disassemble the union machine, and allow teachers, parents, and school districts to make their own decisions? This is what an attorney might call a leading question.
More from Jason on Ohio’s Senate Bill 5 here.
I’ve linked it before, but it’s well worth revisiting Mike Antonucci’s investigation of where $13 million in NEA dues go:
An Education Intelligence Agency analysis of NEA’s financial disclosure report for the 2009-10 fiscal year reveals the national union contributed more than $13 million to a wide variety of advocacy groups and charities. The total was about half the amount disbursed in the previous year, though more than in 2007-08.
The expenditures fall into broad categories of community outreach grants, charitable contributions, and payments for services rendered. In this list, EIA has deliberately omitted spending such as media buys, or payments to pollsters or consultants that have no obvious ideological component. The grants range from $2.125 million to a California ballot initiative campaign, down to smaller grants to organizations such as People for the American Way, Media Matters and Netroots Nation.
Here is an alphabetic list of the 130 recipients of NEA’s contributions, with relevant web links. All of these were paid for with members’ dues money (the union’s federal PAC is a separate entity funded through voluntary means):
AFL-CIO – $150,000
AFSCME – $90,000
Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity – $33,000
America Votes – $300,000
American Constitution Society – $15,000
American Federation of Teachers – $28,365
Arizona State University Office for Research & Sponsored Projects Administration – $325,000
Asian American Justice Center – $7,500
Asian & Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund – $5,000
Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies – $5,000
Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance – $5,000
Baptist Center for Ethics – $20,000
Campaign for America’s Future – $15,000
Campaign for College Affordability – $25,000
Center for Economic Organizing – $13,200
Center for Independent Media – $5,000
Center for Law and Education – $25,000
Center for Tax and Budget Accountability – $60,000
Center for Teaching Quality – $230,767
Center for U.S. Global Leadership – $10,000
Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association – $50,000
Children’s Defense Fund – $5,000
Citizens United for Maine’s Future – $25,000
Citizens Who Support Maine’s Public Schools – $250,000
Coalition for Our Communities – $625,000
Coloradans for Responsible Reform – $400,000
Colorado Deserves Better -$50,000
Committee for Education Funding – $25,000
Committee on States – $6,500
Communities for Quality Education – $1 million
Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc. – $8,800
Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute – $50,000
Council of Chief State School Officers – $50,000
Council of State Governments – $34,500
Democracy Alliance – $85,000
Economic Policy Institute – $250,000
Education Commission of the States – $50,000
Education Law Center – $5,000
Educational Policy Institute – $5,000
Educator Compensation Institute – $25,000
Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate – $200,000
Emerge America – $5,000
Employee Benefit Research Institute – $7,500
Everybody Wins DC – $8,000
Excelencia in Education – $47,400
FairDistrictsFlorida.org – $250,000
FairTest – $25,000
Gay and Lesbian Leadership Institute – $10,000
Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network – $5,000
Global Institute for Language and Literacy Development – $10,000
Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice – $250,000
Harvard Labor and Worklife Program – $5,000
Health Care for America Now! – $450,000
HEROS, Inc. – $202,835
HOPE (Yes on SQ 744) – $1,758,000
Human Rights Campaign – $15,000
Jobs with Justice – $15,000
Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy – $12,230
KnowledgeWorks Foundation – $75,000
Labor-Religion Coalition of New York State – $5,000
Leadership Conference on Civil Rights – $15,000
Learning First Alliance – $91,199
Lincoln Center Institute – $50,000
Mana – $25,000
MediaMatters – $100,000
Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund – $25,000
Midwest Academy – $5,000
Missourians for Early Vote – $41,000
NAACP – $5,000
National Action Network – $10,000
National Association for the Education and Advancement of Cambodian, Laotian, and Vietnamese Americans – $5,000
National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Education Fund – $12,500
National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification – $5,000
National Coalition of ESEA Title I Parents – $5,000
National Coalition on Black Civic Participation – $15,000
National Conference of State Legislatures – $64,043
National Congress of American Indians – $10,000
National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education – $381,576
National Council of La Raza – $26,500
National Forum on Information Literacy – $5,000
National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts – $10,000
National Indian Education Association – $50,000
National Latino Children’s Institute – $15,000
National Popular Vote – $5,000
National Public Pension Coalition – $90,375
National Staff Development Council – $25,000
National Urban League – $33,700
National Women’s Law Center – $10,000
Netroots Nation – $15,000
New Democratic Network – $25,000
New Organizing Institute – $65,000
New Teacher Center – $325,000
No on 1033 – $328,600
Organizations Concerned About Rural Education – $5,000
Organization of Chinese Americans – $5,000
Partnership for 21st Century Skills – $61,350
People for the American Way – $64,538
Plan!t Now – $25,000
Progress Now – $60,000
Progress Ohio – $50,000
Project New West – $185,000
Protect Colorado’s Communities – $25,000
Rainbow PUSH Coalition – $5,000
Rebuild America’s Schools – $10,000
Republican Main Street Partnership – $25,000
Ripon Society – $10,000
Robert Russa Moton Museum – $50,000
Roosevelt Institute – $5,000
San Diego Public Library Foundation – $5,000
Stop the Gag Law – $350,000
Task Force Foundation – $5,000
Trans Afro Group of Companies – $7,600
Tribal Education Departments National Assembly – $5,000
United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce – $30,000
U.S. Action – $70,000
U.S. Global Leadership Coalition – $35,000
U.S. Hispanic Leadership Institute – $26,447
Vote Yes for Oregon – $200,000
Voter Activation Network – $9,500
WAND Education Fund – $15,000
Washington, DC Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation – $166,666
Washington Families Standing Together – $15,000
Wellesley Centers for Women – $6,151
Wellstone Action! – $47,532
Will Steger Foundation – $15,000
Win Minnesota Political Action Fund – $50,000
Women’s Campaign Forum – $10,000
Yes on 100 – $50,000
Yes on 24 – The Tax Fairness Act – $2,125,000