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National View: Union members doing the math, withdrawing dues

From the column: "Teachers union leaders are very generous to themselves with the dollars they take from teachers’ paychecks apparently."

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Rick McKee / Cagle Cartoons
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Noting this year’s fourth anniversary of Janus v. AFSCME — the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 27, 2018, ruling that banned mandatory union membership, dues, and fees for government employees — Washington Post columnist Charles Lane dismissed the decision as a nothing burger.

He wrote, “In the four years since Janus v. AFSCME, a landmark 2018 decision affecting the financing of public-sector unions, the ruling’s actual impact — to the extent it’s detectable at all — has validated neither the hopes of those who welcomed it nor the fears of those who did not. To the contrary, new research suggests the pre-Janus status quo remains remarkably unchanged.”

It’s a line public-sector unions have been peddling for years.

On the ruling’s second anniversary in 2020, in fact, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten boasted, “What was intended by the people who brought this case was to defund us. Not simply erode the fee-payers but to try and erode membership. But that hasn’t happened.”

Don’t look now, but things are changing.

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An analysis of the 2020-’21 school year, for example, showed a sharp decrease in membership for teachers’ unions across the country, including in Minnesota. According to the study, Education Minnesota suffered a decrease of 1.7% of its members, and, nationally, both the National Education Association and Weingarten’s AFT saw 2% drops in their memberships — the equivalent of losing the entire working membership of union affiliates in Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, and Philadelphia combined in a single year.

What could possibly make teachers across the country want to leave their unions in droves?

Could it be because during the 2020-’21 school year Education Minnesota brought in $32 million in union dues and agency fees but only spent $10.4 million in representational activities? How else did Education Minnesota spend its members’ hard-earned dollars? Well, according to its filings with the U.S. Department of Labor, it spent $3.3 million on political activities and lobbying, plus another $2.8 million in contributions, gifts and grants. It paid its President Denise Specht $211,639, its Vice President Bernadette Burnham $216,796, and its Treasurer Rodney Rowe $216,722. And the union also spent $158,330 on office computer equipment and furniture.

If that isn’t bad enough, Education Minnesota sends money to the parent National Education Association, which, for the same year, paid its President Becky Pringle more than $426,000 in salary and allowances, as filings show.

Teachers union leaders are very generous to themselves with the dollars they take from teachers’ paychecks apparently.

As more and more teachers learn they have a right not to fund labor leaders’ lavish lifestyles and a political agenda they may not agree with — especially when gas and groceries have become increasingly expensive — they begin doing the math on how stopping union dues deductions can alleviate some of their financial burdens.

The problem is that most teachers are not even aware of their rights under Janus, and that’s because the teachers union officials do not want them to be educated about their options.

Government employee unions responded to Janus by adopting a variety of still-being-litigated defensive strategies, including only processing opt-out requests during a two-week annual window; challenging each request in court, which forced individual workers to battle a union’s well-financed legal team; subjecting union defectors to workplace harassment; and, when all else failed, simply forging workers’ signatures on membership documents.

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Even worse, notwithstanding their own sanctimonious anti-bullying campaigns, teachers’ unions seem to have no qualms about intimidating their own members when they refuse to toe the line.

This is why the Freedom Foundation, just days following the landmark ruling in Janus, launched a national outreach campaign to educate educators about their alternatives to union membership. It’s a message that’s gaining traction and rendering union leaders alternately displeased, defensive, and delusional.

Ashley N. Varner is vice president of communications and federal affairs in Washington, D.C., for the Freedom Foundation (freedomfoundation.com), a conservative think tank. She wrote this exclusively for the News Tribune.

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Ashley N. Varner

Related Topics: UNIONSU.S. SUPREME COURT
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