Pay Forced Dues to a Teacher Union Boss Who Insults You?

From the 1999-2000 through the 2014-15 school years, enrollment in charter schools across the U.S. skyrocketed from 300,000 to 2.9 million.  Charters are public institutions that furnish their services to K-12 schoolchildren free of charge, but are subject to fewer regulations than traditional district public schools.

Big Labor is alarmed by the rapid rise of charters, because, in stark contrast to K-12 schools, of which roughly two-thirds are unionized, charters are overwhelmingly union-free.

For many years, teacher union bosses sought to deal with the “threat” of charter schools by trying to squash them, or at least stymie their growth, through legislation.  More recently, many union bigwigs have claimed to have had a change of heart with regard to charters. Now, instead of aiming to destroy charters, they are making them the targets of Big Labor organizing drives.

Writing for the  L.A. Weekly, journalist Gene Maddaus recently addressed the efforts of top bosses of the United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA/NEA/AFT) union to secure monopoly-bargaining privileges at the Alliance chain of charters in southern California.

Union officials have at their disposal plenty of forced-dues money extracted from teachers in K-12 district schools to finance this charter campaign.  But its success, as Maddaus showed, remains far from certain. (See the link below to read the entire article.)

One reason why the UTLA hierarchy is fighting an uphill battle is that many teachers in the Alliance chain already have had personal experience with union chiefs, and they didn’t like what they saw. One example cited by Maddaus is Kip Morales, a language and composition teacher who was formerly employed in the unionized L.A. Unified School District:

He felt that he did not have a voice within the UTLA. In one case, the union prevented teachers from grading a standardized test because it wasn’t in the contract. The union leadership never asked teachers if they wanted to grade the test, he said.

Time and again, he felt like [UTLA officials were] protecting bad teachers. He was proud that his students passed the high school exit exams at a much higher rate than the school at large. After he got the teacher of the month award, his union representative passed him in the hall.

“He asked if I had a little brown on my nose,” Morales says. “I said, ‘Excuse me?’”

He felt like the rep was trying to make sure he wasn’t putting in more effort than everyone else. When the district went through layoffs, Morales lost his job due to lack of seniority. At a union meeting, he stood up and pointedly blamed the union [hierarchy].

He says he much prefers working at Alliance because teachers are held accountable. In his most recent evaluation, he was rated a “master teacher” and given a 33 percent raise.

“I don’t want UTLA [bosses] coming in and messing that up,” he says.

Unfortunately, good teachers still employed in the Big Labor-dominated Unified School District actually have to pay dues or fees to the UTLA machine in order to keep their jobs, even if union bosses have “messed up” opportunities those teachers could have had.  Hard-working educators shouldn’t have to bankroll union kingpins who insult them and denigrate their efforts.

That’s one reason why the National Right to Work Committee and its members are working hard to build support for forced dues-repeal legislation in California and the 24 other states that still lack Right to Work protections for employees.

Why did a Los Angeles union official give a “teacher of the month” the Don Rickles treatment? The teacher suspects the union rep “was trying to make sure he wasn’t putting in more effort than anyone else.” Image: Mark Mainz/Getty Images

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