'If You Don't Allow Me to Decide Whether I Want You to Act as My Agent, You Don't Have the Right to Force Me to Pay You a Fee'

In Vermont, private-sector and many government union bosses have long wielded the power to get employees fired for refusal to pay dues or fees to an unwanted union.  However, freedom-loving state citizens, assisted by the National Right to Work Committee and its 2.8 million members, have succeeded up to now in blocking the forced unionization of teachers.

This winter, Big Labor is determined to wipe out this enclave of freedom in the Green Mountain State. Pending legislation would empower teacher union bosses to make joining or paying so-called “agency’ fees to their organization a condition of employment for K-12 educators.

Vermont history teacher Peter Berger is a rank-and-file member of the National Education Association (NEA) and two of its subsidiaries.  That hardly means he agrees with teacher union bosses who are leading the charge for the forced-dues measure.  In an op-ed for a local newspaper published last week and linked below,  Berger explains why Big Labor’s principal excuse for corralling teachers into a union doesn’t hold water:

[The] proposed act requires school boards to deduct eighty-five percent of normal union dues from non-union teachers’ paychecks and turn that money over to the National Education Association.

The union’s proffered justification is that nonmembers benefit from the contract negotiated by the union. That rationalization makes some initial sense. However, it fails to tell the whole story.

If you enter a restaurant and choose to buy lunch, the owner has the right to charge you for lunch, and you would expect to pay for it. If you choose not to buy lunch, you’d rightly expect that you wouldn’t have to pay for it. That’s because you have a choice.

In the case of contract negotiations, teachers don’t have a choice. I’m not allowed to negotiate my own contract because long ago the union lobbied for and won the statutory sole right to negotiate for me.

Having taken from me the right to negotiate my own contract, the union now wants to charge me for something I never wanted it to do. This is like having a customer decline to order a sandwich, allowing the proprietor to cram most of it down her throat, and then making her pay for eighty-five percent of it.

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If the National Education Association would allow each teacher the choice of either participating in the union’s negotiated contract and accepting union representation in disputes, or negotiating a non-union contract with his local school board and representing himself, then I would defend the union’s right to charge participating teachers an agency fee. However, if you don’t allow me to decide whether I want you to act as my agent, you don’t have the right to force me to pay you a fee. Compelling me to pay that fee is indefensible.

Vermont bill is a mockery of fairness