by cheri sabraw
Here is the leader in a Los Angeles Times op-ed concerning the United States’ Supreme Court’s taking up a case this week called Janus vs. AFSCME.
“For 40 years, right-wing activists and fronts for the 1% have had their knives out for a Supreme Court precedent that protects the ability of public employee unions to represent their members and even nonmembers, and to speak out on matters of public interest.
That precedent faces a mortal threat in a case scheduled for oral argument at the Supreme Court on Monday. Indications are that a conservative majority of justices is poised to overturn it. That would have implications for worker rights, principles of fair compensation and income inequality, none of them good — unless you’re a millionaire.
The case is Janus vs. AFSCME. The issue in the case is the “agency fee,” which public employee unions in 22 states, including California, charge workers who are represented by those unions. The fee is a subset of union dues, which are paid by members. It’s supposed to cover only contract-related union functions such as contract negotiations and enforcement, including grievance procedures.”
Many years ago, I was part of class-action lawsuit representing those teachers who objected to the teachers’ union charging its non-members for political advertising and other “services” we would never use.
Let’s say that union dues for the California Teachers’ Association in those days when I was a young teacher were $600.00 a year. That money, taken out of my paycheck each month, was used by CTA for everything from legal representation to political advertising. In the years when the teacher contract expired–and negotiations with the school district were the only way to agree contractually—-that money was used for collective bargaining here in California (and now in 22 other states).
Our lawsuit was victorious in that the court ruled that the portion of money used for collective bargaining was to be paid by all teachers–even those of us who were not members of the union but that non-union teachers would receive a rebate of the money used for other services.
Out of union dues of approximately $600.00 per year, agency fee or “fair share” dues are about 1/3 of the mandatory automatic monthly dues deductions. I received a rebate of about $200.00 in those days.
For those of us teachers who do not want to join the union, who will not use union lawyers, and who do not believe in union tactics of manning a strike line or keeping incompetent teachers in the classroom–we believe that being forced to pay ANYTHING to CTA or its national organization the NEA is wrong.
Most teachers who do not join the union make that decision after a year or two in the public school system.
In my experience of over 25 years in the public school system, the biggest union people were the most incompetent teachers–you know, the ones whining about everything–from having to call parents back to showing up to supervise a dance.
Unions represent teachers with “grievances.” I never filed a grievance in my years of service although in hindsight, perhaps I should have. Why should I have had to walk by all the 16-year-old boys that a certain teacher had “thrown out” of her 5th period in a daily ritual? Why should I have had to listen to a Spanish teacher four doors down barking like a dog to get a laugh from her class? Why should I have had to teach essay writing to the junior English students who hadn’t been taught much by the sophomore English teacher?
The pubic employees union never did “represent” me. It stood for all of those things that I am so much against: protection of its members over protection of its constituents-the students!; fear mongering about progressive educational change (so drastically needed) in order to protect its weakest members, and knee-jerk reactions to any idea that might weaken the union such as school choice, vouchers, etc.
Most of us will agree that the public school system has room for much improvement, especially in the areas of accountability and teacher training.
The hyperbole in the Los Angeles Times op-ed is part of the shrill wailing going on in public discourse– an effort to deliver a toxic pack of liberal lies –the ones we regular people endure in California day in and day out.
And how is our school system doing here? Last year, California ranked #30 in student achievement.
A millionaire? I am hardly one.
A right-wing activist? I am hardly one.
Good teachers do not need any union.
Good-bye Abood vs. Detroit Board of Education.