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Do You Know Your Membership Options?
 



Do you know that California is a monopoly bargaining state?

Thirty-two states have laws authorizing monopoly bargaining. Twenty of those states, as well as the District of Columbia, have enacted laws forcing educators to pay dues or "fees" to a labor union in order to teach. California law authorizes mandatory monopoly bargaining and forced dues or "fees" to a labor union.

The remaining states have no mandatory monopoly bargaining, no forced dues and in eight states monopoly bargaining and forced dues are explicitly illegal or not tolerated.

Do you know that you are automatically enrolled in a monopoly bargaining unit? Do you know what this means?

As an employee of a California public school district, you are given a packet, usually at your new teacher orientation, which includes enrollment forms for your labor union. There is a unified dues structure within the union, which means that when you choose to be a member, you belong to the national organization (National Education Association - NEA or American Federation of Teachers - AFT), your state organization (California Teachers Association - CTA or California Federated of Teachers - CFT) and your local organization.

Your public school district's board of trustees has entered into a deal with your local union, which grants the union exclusive rights to negotiate pay, benefits and working conditions for all teachers whether they are a union member or not.

Your school district's payroll department acts as a "pass through" for automatic monthly dues deductions from your paycheck. Your local union is then responsible for sending the state and national union their allocations.

Do you know how your dues are calculated?

The elected officers of the national, state and local organizations determine yearly, how much your dues will be. There is a formula used whereby roughly 2% of a new teacher's salary goes towards dues. Whether or not a pay raise is negotiated in your district, each school year, dues go up.

Let's take an example of $1,050 in dues. NEA will take about $180, CTA will take about $647 and your local will take about $223.

Do you know you have a choice regarding your union membership?

Yes, you have a choice! Every local union negotiates an agreement between itself and the local school district. Every teacher should receive a copy of this agreement. Every agreement has an article entitled Organizational Security. In that article, the types of membership categories are clearly delineated.

They include:

1 . Union Member

Your full dues are deducted from your monthly paychecks. Choosing this option means you can hold office in the union, give input and vote on the contract, carry the union's insurance and have legal representation, should you have an employment related dispute.

2. Fair Share or Agency Fee

An amount equal to full dues is deducted from your monthly paychecks and you are entitled to a yearly rebate of monies that the union admits not spending on collective bargaining, contract administration or grievance adjustment. Using the above example of $1,050 of dues, a rebate of approximately $350, spent on other items, could be returned to you. Choosing this option means you are not a Union member. You cannot hold office in the union. You can give input into, but not vote on the contract. You cannot carry the union's insurance, but the union is required to provide legal representation if you have a dispute regarding your contract. The latter is true because the union has a “duty of fair representation” to all members of the bargaining unit. Additionally, choosing the agency fee option does mean that you do have some say in the monies your union spends if that spending runs contrary to your wishes.

Using your dues rebate check, you can join organizations such as the Association of American Educators (www.aaeteachers.org) or the Christian Educators Association International (www.ceai.org) for your insurance and legal needs. These are professional organizations, not unions. Your rebate check will more than cover the cost of joining one of these organizations.

3. Religious/Conscientious Objector

The full dues equivalent is deducted in monthly paychecks but is made payable to a charitable fund exempt from taxation under Section 501(c)(3) of Title 26 of the Internal Revenue Code. Such contributions might not be an allowed charitable tax deduction for you, however, and you should check with your tax professional before claiming such. Choosing this option means you are not a union member. You cannot hold office in the union, you can give input into but not vote on the contract, you cannot carry the union's insurance, but the union is required to provide legal representation should you have a dispute regarding your contract.


Choosing this option means the union gets none of your money. While you will lose the union’s liability insurance and legal representation there are alternative ways to secure this coverage. You can join the Association of American Educators ( www.aaeteachers.org) or the Christian Educators Association International ( www.ceai.org) for your insurance and legal needs. These are professional organizations, not unions. If you would like to read more about becoming a religious objector, click on http://www.nrtw.org/ro1.htm.

Do you know you can exercise your options at any time?
(Some of the following information pertains only to NEA/CTA membership. If you are a member of AFT/CFT, please call 888-290-8471 or email cteninfo@ctenhome.org for more information.)

As a new teacher to a district, when you are presented with your union membership forms, you can fill them out to become a member. Or, you can do nothing and you automatically become a Fair Share/Agency Fee Payer. Yearly, you will need to draft a letter requesting your rebate of monies spent by the union on items other than bargaining. A sample letter is offered for your ease. Simply click here. Fill it out, make a copy for your files and mail it certified, return receipt by November 15 of every year and you will receive the maximum rebate.

OR

If you decide to claim your right to a religious accommodation, you must inform the union of your desire to become a religious objector. To do this, draft a letter to your local union stating your sincere religious beliefs and your desire to become a religious/conscientious objector. Obtaining a religious accommodation is generally not difficult, but to ensure that you are doing everything correctly under federal law, you would be wise to contact law school professor Bruce N. Cameron. The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation provides Professor Cameron's assistance at no cost to religious objectors. You can call the Right to Work Foundation toll free at 800-336-3600 or contact Professor Cameron directly at bcameron@Regent.edu. Professor Cameron has litigated more religious objector cases against the National Education Association and its affiliates than any other lawyer in the country.

If you are currently a union member (you signed union membership forms) and you want to change membership status to that of Fair Share/Agency fee payer, you need to notify your local union. This can be done at any time as the former "window of opportunity" has been legally removed (Apple v. CTA ). To become a Fair Share/Agency Fee payer, draft a letter to your local union indicating your desire to change membership status. A sample letter is offered for your ease. Simply click here. Fill it out, make a copy for your files and mail it certified, return receipt requested to your local union at any time. Then draft a letter requesting your rebate of monies spent by the union on items other than bargaining. A sample letter is offered for your ease. Simply click here. Do not use these sample letters if you want to be a religious objector. Using them could badly damage your right to claim a religious accommodation.

Important: As an agency fee payer, you need to resign from your union only once. However, you must file a request for your rebate every subsequent year by November 15. You may use the above sample letter to request your yearly rebate.

Please make sure you include the last three paragraphs, requesting arbitration. Should the arbitrator rule in favor of the class of Agency Fee Payers and require the union to issue additional monies back, only those who have requested arbitration will get the additional money rebated to them. You do not need to attend the arbitration hearings; you only need to request arbitration when writing your rebate letter. There is no cost to the fee payer in terms of time or money to request arbitration.


OR

If you decide that you want to become a religious objector (and you qualify), draft a letter to your local union stating your sincere religious beliefs and become a Religious/Conscientious Objector. It is wise to have your letter reviewed by Professor Cameron before you send it to the union. He can help you to determine if you qualify to request a religious accommodation.

Do you know your employer cannot discriminate against you in any way for your membership category choice?

It is illegal for your employer to discriminate against you in any way because of your membership choice.

Do you know why many of your fellow teachers choose not to be a member of the union?

About 12% of all workers in the nation are unionized. Public employee unions are the only growing segment of unions with private sector unions on the decline. The younger work force has little or no interest in becoming unionized.

In 1857 a new organization was created. Its purpose was "to elevate the character and advance the interests of the profession of teaching, and to promote the cause of popular education in the United States ." The organization was the National Teachers Association which is now the National Education Association.

Today the National Education Association has a different mission. According to NEA Executive Director John Wilson, it is to gain power. Political power, that is. He stated in a speech on July 3, 2003, "We must become even more powerful. We must not shy away from power. It's the absence of power that saps our will and corrupts our dreams." This need for power has manifested itself in a disconnect between the membership and the leadership of the union.

Do you know that you can decertify your local union or disaffiliate from your state and national unions?

Teachers have the right to choose to separate their local teacher organization from their state and national affiliated unions either through disaffiliation or decertification. The option available to them will depend on the language in their local constitution, bylaws, and collective bargaining agreement. In some instances, teachers may need to only amend their constitution or bylaws to establish their independence. In some situations, they may be required to actually proceed through a decertification process from their present bargaining representation, while at the same time seeking election of their local association as their exclusive bargaining representative.

Any group of teachers/educators who would like to know more about the options available to them or the process that is involved should feel free to contact La Rae Munk at attorney@wwdb.org

To read more about a few districts who decided it was better to be independent and maintain greater control over their professional lives, please read this from "Contract For Failure," a research paper from the Pacific Research Institute.

For those who would like to read the entire PRI study, go here.

 

 

Copyright 2006 California Teachers Empowerment Network Phone: 1- 888-290-8471 E-Mail:CTENINFO@ctenhome.org

- California Teachers Empowerment Network is a non-profit, non-union information resource for professional teachers.
We are here to provide you with all the information you need to make informed decisions.