It’s no secret that teachers’ unions are among the nation’s most powerful unions. Many elected officials stand down rather than pick a fight with them . But not Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis.
Governor DeSantis released his “Teacher’s Bill of Rights” on January 23 which, if enacted, will:
- Require school unions to represent at least 60 percent of employees eligible for representation instead of the current 50 percent;
- Prohibit any union representing public employees from having its dues and assessments; deducted by the public employee’s employer;
- Require annual audits and financial disclosures for unions;
- Require school unions to annually notify members of the cost of membership; and
- Prohibit the distribution of union materials at the workplace.
California lawmakers who are sincere about wanting to protect the rights and interests of all teachers should take notice.
In 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Janus v. AFSCME that public employees can no longer be required to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment. This should have been great news for disaffected union members. However, union leaders and their allies in the Legislature changed the law following the ruling to make it as difficult as possible for workers to quit their union.
The few that know about this changed rule must follow narrow guidelines and stipulations to opt out and are often coerced or bullied by local union bosses.
Taking it even further, many teachers are trapped in a permanent and irrevocable membership as teacher unions in California began to change the language on their membership forms in anticipation of the court decision. The only way to cancel dues deductions in these specific instances is by submitting a cancellation request during narrow, annual escape periods, some as short as only a few days.
Membership dues continue to rise. In 2022-23, state membership dues increased by $15, making a teacher’s annual contribution $768. The California Teachers Association (CTA) is expected to rake in over $205 million from membership dues alone – more cash that they can utilize for their political agenda that is less about schools and children. In the 2022 election, the CTA spent millions of dollars on ballot initiatives involving flavored tobacco, sports betting and taxing millionaires to fund electric vehicles.
We are all still scratching our heads as to how funding electric vehicles is supposed to improve the effectiveness of our public school system.
What’s more concerning is many California teachers believe that they won’t benefit from union protection or the collective bargaining agreement between the teachers’ unions and their school district unless they are paying membership dues.
One public elementary school teacher recently to me expressed her fear of mistreatment and increased risk of firing as a new teacher if she didn’t pay dues.
“I am sure the teachers would treat me differently if I opted out,” she recently texted me. She speaks to a principal she worked under who bullied teachers with differing political views saying, “that principal probably would have fired me if I wasn’t a union member.” Of course, this would be illegal under state law, but her fears are demonstrative of how some disaffected union members are living in fear.
Here in California, teacher unions unfortunately seem to be winning the propaganda battle with teachers and using fear tactics to secure more membership fees than they would have if all disaffected teachers exercised their rights.
Back in Florida, Governor DeSantis is working to put an end to such union haggling and misinformation by increasing transparency and supporting teachers. And the teachers’ unions aren’t taking too kindly to it.
“This is not someone looking out for the best interest of teachers,” said Florida Education Association President Andrew Spar. “The freedom to decide how they come together, the freedom to decide what to do with their own paycheck, and the freedom to actually teach in our schools has been under attack for some time.”
It’s confusing how the union’s position could be that the Governor’s proposal is an attack on teacher freedom. The proposal is about transparency and freedom for teachers who decide not to pay union membership fees. Relinquishing the hold unions have over the public school system will give teachers more freedom in the classroom to teach, and effectively eliminate the pressure to bring social issues and politics that some may not agree with into their work.
Emily Humpal is the Pacific Research Institute’s deputy communications director.