The Teacher's Union

Major Godin has taught Naval Junior ROTC at North High School in Worcester, Massachusetts, for 15 years without paying any kind of union fees.  He chose not to join a union because the military pays half of his salary, as well as his medical and dental insurance.  He simply had no use or desire to have any part in a union.  However, he was given an ultimatum from school officials last month to start paying union fees or lose his job. The letter included a deadline for his termination if he refused to join the union or begin paying a $500 union fee.  A state law in Massachusetts requires all public employees, including teachers, to join unions as a condition of employment or to pay an agency fee. State employees are charged this agency fee to cover the costs of collective bargaining for the unions, even if they are not union members themselves. -Heritage

We have, in the United States, a cult of teacherism. The general feeling is that every teacher in every school, or at least every teacher in my school, or, well, at least the teachers my kids have right now, are all teaching because they simply love the children, and love to teach.

Nonsense. And rightly so, actually. Teachers, like everyone else, should care about what they do for a living, and the people they serve, but they are also human. And there’s not a single human out here who doesn’t need to survive, and hence doesn’t need to receive, from their jobs, more than just satisfaction. Jesus didn’t say you couldn’t live without bread, He said you can’t live without bread alone. So I understand teacher’s unions from this perspective. I don’t think we should be so romantic about the job of a teacher; a little realism is in order.

The problem is the cult of teacherism runs both ways. Not only do we often think overly well of teachers, we tend to build a halo around them. Anything a teacher believes must be good for my child. After all, those teachers are there because they love my children just as much as I do. And this is where we get mixed up about teacher’s unions.

If teacher’s unions stuck to the point of collective bargaining for decent pay and working hours, that would be one thing. But they don’t, do they? They also spend huge amounts of money promoting abortion, and deeper government control of every aspect of our lives. They also spend huge amounts of time preparing materials teachers can use to support one candidate over another in particular elections, using their influence over the classroom to influence parents (and voters).

If the teacher’s union kept their work in the space of direct payment for services rendered, they would be fine. But no union I’ve ever seen has been able to do this simple thing. And this is why Major Godin, nor anyone else, shouldn’t be forced to pay dues to the teacher’s union. The argument that if you don’t pay union dues, then you’re gaining the benefit of collective bargaining without bearing the cost would be a valid statement if the teacher’s unions restricted themselves to collective bargaining.

The logical leap from forcing someone to paying for collective bargaining to forcing them to pay for political activism is a leap over a wide gulf. A gulf that should be unjumpable, but is today bridged by an almost cult-like reverence for the teachers in our midst.

(update)

I think Britt’s comments are important on this one, so I’d urge you to read them. I should have qualified the statement above —unions are fine as long as they stick to direct negotiation about pay and other compensation, AND they are not the subject of a government monopoly. The second major problem in this case is that the teacher’s union is formed on a government run monopoly, so the union itself is a government endorsed monopoly.

2 comments to The Teacher's Union

  • Britt Houser

    So in Massachusetts, the government is only allowed to hire union members. How is this not a monopoly by the union?

    • It is a monopoly by the union–enforced by the government, in fact, through the public school system. The problem, in other words, isn’t the union, it’s the government run monopoly on schools. If there were no monopoly in the school system, then the teacher’s union would be forced to fight for members, and if teachers were paid fairly, and the union could only address pay issues, the union would die out. If there were no monopolies and no political activism, unions would only survive as a “shell organization,” with no effective power, in those times when pay was good and the employees were treated well.

      But organizations can’t allow themselves to be a “shell,” so they make up reasons to exist. In the case of the teacher’s unions, they have pretty much everything anyone could ever dream of. But rather than going quietly into the night, they push for state controlled monopolies on teaching through public schools, so they can use the power of the state to enforce what’s essentially a tax and continue their activities. And once there, they use their power for political causes. Generally those activities will be to grow the reach and scope of the government that handed monopoly power to the union in the first place.