Big Labor Shill Smears Independent-Minded Teachers

Brushes Aside Facts Union Bosses Opted Not to Contest in Court

(Click here to download the February 2016 National Right to Work Newsletter)

As a consequence of U.S. Supreme Court oral arguments that took place on January 11 (see page eight of this Newsletter for more about them), the legal case Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association received an unprecedented amount of media attention last month.

nl201602-Richard-KahlenbergThis ongoing, landmark suit filed by 10 independent-minded Golden State teachers challenges the constitutionality of state laws authorizing the termination of public servants for refusal to pay forced nonmember fees to an unwanted union.

A final High Court decision is not expected for several months. But at least one significant matter of contention between the two sides in Friedrichs is already resolved.

Union Bosses ‘Affirmatively Harm [Many] Teachers’    

Addressing a false insinuation by the respondents in the case that only union nonmembers who receive “additional compensation as a result of the Unions’ efforts” are forced to pay union fees, or be fired, the plaintiffs presented clear evidence to the contrary in a September 2015 brief.

The evidence came straight out of the National Education Association (NEA) union handbook.

“Respondent Unions advocate numerous policies that affirmatively harm [many] teachers,” charged the Friedrichs plaintiffs.

Quoting directly from the NEA Handbook, the plaintiffs continued:

“NEA considers any ‘system of compensation based on an evaluation of an education employee’s performance’ to be ‘inappropriate’ and ‘opposes providing additional compensation to attract and/or retain education employees in hard-to-recruit positions.’”

Teachers Specializing in Hard Subjects Get ‘Trapped in Union-Obtained Pay Systems’

Teachers who “care more about rewarding merit than protecting mediocre teachers” should “oppose those policies,” continued the plaintiffs. And “teachers who specialize in difficult subjects (like chemistry or physics), but are trapped in union-obtained pay systems that stop them from outearning gym teachers,” should also oppose such policies.

In the briefs they filed in November 2015, neither California Teachers Association (CTA/NEA) union bosses nor California Attorney General Kamala Harris, both of whom were arguing in favor of forced union fees, contested the fact that many teachers get paid less due to union monopoly bargaining.

Moreover, Ms. Harris actually admitted in her own brief that union officials “do have substantial latitude to advance bargaining positions that . . . run counter to the economic interests of some employees.”

There was no further debate on this point during last month’s oral arguments.

‘Everyone Is Entitled To His Own Opinion, But Not His Own Facts’

However, after the hearings, which observers overwhelmingly agree went badly for the respondents, were over, a number of Big Labor apologists lashed out at teachers who choose not to join a union as if the exchange in the briefs about the impact of union monopoly bargaining on educator compensation had never occurred.

National Right to Work Committee Vice President Matthew Leen noted that Richard Kahlenberg, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation and the author of a biography of the late teacher union kingpin Al Shanker, is a particularly egregious example.

“In a January 12 New York Times op-ed,” recalled Mr. Leen, “Richard Kahlenberg simply ignored the uncontested fact that many teachers are hurt economically by union contracts that tie pay exclusively to seniority and years of post-graduate education, regardless of the subject studied and its professional relevance.

“Mr. Kahlenberg certainly can’t be unaware that union officials routinely insist on contracts that impose this type of ‘single salary schedule,’ since it is a scheme Al Shanker himself helped concoct!

“Nonetheless, Mr. Kahlenberg cited the mere fact that many teachers in Right to Work states opt not to join a union as proof that these teachers ‘enjoy getting benefits for nothing.’

“Instead of smearing teachers who disagree with him about the merits of monopolistic unionism, Mr. Kahlenberg ought to acknowledge that Kamala Harris got it right: Many teachers may refuse to bankroll a union when they have a choice because they rationally believe it harms them economically.

“Mr. Kahlenberg is entitled to favor compulsory unionism if he wants to.

“But, as the late New York U.S. Sen. Pat Moynihan is once said to have put it, ‘Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.’”