Agency fee may go to the guillotine


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.

You see.

Good teachers do not need any union.

Good-bye Abood vs. Detroit Board of Education.


About Cheri

Writer, photograph, artist, mother, grandmother and wife.
This entry was posted in Education, Politics and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

29 Responses to Agency fee may go to the guillotine

  1. Brig says:

    Having spent many years in two school districts offices, and a co office of ed, my thoughts are the same as yours.
    CSEA is just as bad and corrupt as CTA. I refused to join, after having had to issue the warrants (pay checks) to teachers aides that were scamming the system, janitors that were stealing everything not nailed down, teachers that should have never been allowed in a classroom, much less given tenure…
    Schools don’t need more money, they need to do away with the unions. The unions time of usefulness is long over…

    • Cheri says:

      I can imagine very easily the scenarios you offer in your astute comment, Brig. Thanks for sharing your experience working in the school and in a classified capacity. Hope all is well with you and that you found your little dog. I couldn’t respond to your loss on your blog because I found the situation so distressing.

  2. Carol McCann says:

    Hooray, my thoughts also. I spent many years writing a yearly letter to go along with my agency fee. Teachers should not have to pay for the privilege of teaching !!!

  3. shoreacres says:

    Every now and then, I remember why I’m happy to live in Texas. This is one of those times. Things aren’t perfect here, by any means, but it seems to me they’re better than in your fair state. I used to think of California with affection, and fantasize about living there again. But I’ve changed, and so has Cali, and I don’t think we’d be a good fit any more.

    • Cheri says:

      Things are out of control here. We are waiting for the inevitable clash between the Feds and the State in a number of areas. As you observe, there is no perfect place; we understand that as well but it would be nice to have some measure of balance here. A good example is Peter Thiel’s exodus from Silicon Valley to Los Angeles. I am sure you read about it.

      He indicated that Silicon Valley is one big group think–that there is no room for a difference of opinion. Peter Thiel can afford to leave. Many other people cannot.

  4. Christopher says:

    The topic of of this posting being so sharply different from what you’ve been writing about in recent months, no-one can accuse you of not being eclectic in what consumes you!!!

    • Cheri says:

      Well thank you, Christopher. As most of us do, I have thoughts and opinions about many topics. I try to think critically about each topic so as not to grow predictable. It’s hard sometimes to REALLY entertain another’s point of view.
      I follow the Supreme Court because of the gravity of its decisions. What is the Supreme Court called in Canada?

      • Christopher says:

        You asked: What is the Supreme Court called in Canada?. The answer: The Supreme Court of Canada.

        Bet you would never have guessed, huh?

        Now, I’ve a question for you: What do you think of Trump’s plan to arm teachers?

        • Cheri says:

          I think Trump’s idea to arm teachers is HORRIBLE. The last public high school in which I taught had a police officer stationed at the high school with his own office. Teachers and administrators should not be armed. What decisions do you think would make schools safer?

          • Brig says:

            Not trying to highjack the thread between you & Christopher, but I would like to respond to your comment on arming teachers & staff. Consider if you would Larry C’s post that addresses that issue:

            • Christopher says:

              Larry Correia’s piece makes a plausible case for arming teachers. Hence in pushing for this, Trump shows that even a fool may not always be wrong..

              But the underlying problem is the 2nd Amendment itself, enacted as it was in 1791 when America had in total less than 4 million people, who were mainly agrarian, and whose guns were muskets and duelling pistols – very different from the AR-15s and “Saturday Night Specials” of today.

              The 2nd Amendment has therefore long become an anachronism that acts as a concrete slab tied to a leg of the American Eagle, preventing it from soaring majestically into the azure.

              • Richard says:

                Larry Correia says, I think, that there is already a large measure of gun control and certification according to type.

                It is worth noting that the Dunblane massacre of 16 children here in 1996 was perpetrated by a licensed gunholder. Legal control is not necessarily the answer and there is still the possibiity of a “rogue” teacher. The general arming of police is still a live issue in th UK. Many policemen do ot want to be armed. This is the flip side of the deterrence argument.

              • Cheri says:

                Well Christopher, we have a disagreement. The Second Amendment is not an anachronism. It is part of the bedrock that anchors our grand experiment here in the USA together. It is a sacredly held value that most Americans will never give up. Sure. Many of us want better vetting before anyone is allowed to buy a gun. Criminals will always find guns, even in Canada. The Black Market is full of them. This is how bad people in the world operate. I, for one, do not want to be weaponless when the bad guys come up my road after the “haves.”

            • Cheri says:

              Brig, I do not have the solution to these serious issues surrounding gun control and soft-targets (as schools are). I can only reflect upon my experience teaching at six different schools in my career. I cannot imagine most of the people with whom I worked being interested in carrying a concealed weapon or having the personality to carry a firearm and use it if necessary. Perhaps teachers in Montana, Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, and other states where a number of people actively carry guns and are more than competent. How many of those people are educators?

          • Richard says:

            I followed Brig’s link to a comprehensive and lengthy exposition by a consummate expert on this very issue. I am much persuaded that schools are safer with properly vetted and trained teachers armed with concealed weapons.

            That does not mean I am not horrified at the idea of it. The best teachers are on a mission to educate children and inform in a caring environment. Having some of them secretly armed with a lethal weapon runs contrary to that very ideal of improvement.

            The arguments for arming have much in common with the justifications for nuclear deterrence: the existential risk is less, perhaps marginally. The difference lies in the daily presence of that risk among the most vulnerable.

            Your experience, Cheri, of a police officer stationed at the school is a powerful one. Yet what carnage is likely before he reached the scene? Is the gunman likely to be deterred knowing he might face an armed teacher?

            We live in bad times. Bad times sometimes call for radical measures. If they are justified, they are temporary in the promise of a better world.

            • Cheri says:

              You have convinced me that perhaps we should arm teachers and school staff if they are willing. Your last paragraph is true and a statement that the good Judge has made to me many times.

  5. Richard says:

    I am not familiar with the facts or reasoning behind Abood vs. Detroit Board of Education or whether it was based upon a contractual obligation or amounted to the interpretation of a taxing statute. Indeed, I had never heard of it, confined as I am to an insignificant island off the north of Europe.

    Either way, the net result is the conferring of a right upon a trade union to collect a special tax from a citizen who practises a particular profession in the public sector and not because that citizen has agreed to be a member of the union. I was not aware that trade unions were an arm of US government. Legislature, judiciary, executive, and trade unions … hmmm.

    The decision appears to flout a number of fundamental principles. I seem to recall that some colonial war or another was fought over the principle of no taxation without representation. That war was about democratic, representative government, was it not ?

    This topic is indeed a worthy inclusion in your blog.

  6. Cheri says:

    Oh I love this comment. Insignificant little island, eh? This issue of trade unions and union dues is at the heart of a number of American institutions. As wages have risen and quality has deteriorated, the nexus between the two becomes a throbbing sore.

    Remember, my vote for Trump was for the Supreme Court. That and that only.
    Let’s see what the court says about Janus.
    I’d love to get a live feed into the arguments.
    Hope all is well with you, Sir Richard.

    • Richard says:

      I see the Plaintiff is to argue the First amendment, freedom of speech, to overcome state laws. To my ill-informed layman’s mind, this is only one of a number of constitutional worries attaching to this extraordnary power of public sector unions. The most they have achieved in this country is for union officials to take paid leave to attend union meetings, and that has been abolished. Goodness knows what aberrations there will be if there is ever a Corbyn government. You only have to look at the Soviet Union or present-day China to see the extent of the Communist Party’s participation in government. The western version is the empowering of the unions.

  7. wkkortas says:

    As a member of unions now and again (teacher and otherwise), I’ve always had mixed feelings towards them. I think folks who enjoy collective bargaining would soon find out how much they’d miss it if it went away, but, as I may have said before, most unions are stuck in a 1910-issue adversarial relationship, not to mention (and I am using my quietest indoor voice here) Most union reps and shop stewards are not among the best and brightest, and are usually in it for mere self-preservation . There are outside forces which are looking to undermine unions, which I do not see as a good thing, but most if not all unions are pretty damn fair at undermining their ownselves.

    • Richard says:

      The traditional role of trade unions, though still alive, is on the back foot in the UK. There are powerful leaders with political ambitions to overthrow the state, irrespective of the wishes or true interests of ordinary members. The Labour Party has its origins in the trade union movement but socialist ideology soon blended in and has confused the true function ever since.

    • Cheri says:

      Well put, wk. I agree with you in keeping a balance between the workers and the bosses of the world. My grandfather Harry was a big supporter of the union member. So was my dad.
      Most of us read The Jungle in school. That book made a big impression on me.

      In Fremont, we used to have the General Motors plant which gradually was phased out. Union workers were making a hefty hourly wage yet the product was declining. Toyota took the plant over with a new management style. The plant was called NUMMI. Most of the union members appreciated the different approach by the Japanese bosses.

      Unions in education have rarely served students. As the good Judge reminds me, that is exactly what a union does–represent its members–not its constituents.

  8. Christopher says:

    @Cheri – Your response to my most recent comment (it’s up there somewhere!!) elegantly made the point that the 2nd Amendment is (in so many words) a reflection of American values, it being, as you said “…… a sacredly held value that most Americans will never give up……..”.

    While this sacredly held value may, I suppose, have benefits of some sort or other, it also has its costs – costs like having to arm teachers (if Trump has his way); and costs like America having by far the highest murder rate by guns, let alone the highest overall murder rate, among all the high income countries, as *this piece* shows.

    Is that moment approaching when the costs of having the 2nd Amendment will suddenly be seen to outweigh its benefits? Is the recent school shooting in Florida the Tipping Point?

    • wkkortas says:

      If you look at what Cheri said in reply to my comment, albeit in a different context, It makes me consider the NRA, who at this particular point in time does not represent the overwhelming majority of its membership–sportsmen, responsible gun owners like the good Cheri–but rather seems in thrall of firearms manufacturers. The Second Amendment as we know it is not going away–it is too well buttressed by generations of legal precedent, and there is no political will to take all the guns away, no matter how often Wayne LaPierre takes that bogeyman out for a walk. The question becomes, then , just what type of restriction on private firearm ownership will people sign up for– and until such time that people use their ballot and wallet to say that private ownership of weapons such as the AR-15 is unacceptable, you’ll have no “tipping point”.

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