Post-Janus, How Unions Keep Teachers Trapped
By Lance Izumi and Rebecca Friedrichs
Reports reveal that 10-15% of teachers have said “No thanks” to funding unions since the U.S. Supreme Court set them free from forced unionism through the Janus decision in June 2018.
While these numbers might suggest that the great majority of teachers are happy with union representation and want no changes, that’s simply not true.
Most teachers appreciate their local association but resent state and national unions because they bully teachers, use them to fund their far-left political agenda, and are the root cause of the corruption creating the crisis in schools and the teaching profession.
State and national unions receive about 80% of teacher dues for this misrepresentation, so they’re rabid to keep teachers ensnared. Many teachers would reject them for “local only” associations, but union tactics make it almost impossible to break free.
Unions harass teachers who “opt out,” isolating loving teachers as “freeloaders” who take the benefit” of the unions without paying their “fair share.” They also make opting out complex and deceive teachers into believing they’ll lose their pay, pension, legal protections and contracts if they leave unions. These are lies, but many teachers believe them.
No wonder only 10-15% of teachers have stopped funding unions.
Karen Cuen understands how unions sabotage teachers. She’s nurtured and educated little musicians as an elementary music teacher since 1988.
Karen loves everything about teaching — except the politics and hostility imposed on her by “teachers” unions. “There’s always animosity from the teachers’ union toward the district, and I hate that,” she told us. “We’re teachers and administrators for children, and all of this union bickering is just ridiculous.”
Then there were the layoffs. “All the times we got pink slips, the union was never interested in sticking up for us. A colleague asked, ‘What are you going to do for the music teachers?’ And the union said, ‘Nothing.’ That was the end of the story. What does the union care about music classes for kids?”
Karen sees through union propaganda too: “What makes my blood boil is they say, ‘The union will help you,’ but it’s only if they want to. They usually don’t want to.”
When she ran for school board in Fullerton in 1992 to support her own children, her union destroyed her efforts as a parent. “Before I was elected to the school board, the teachers’ union asked me about vouchers. I said, ‘Vouchers are a great idea!’ That was the death knell.”
She managed to win without union support, but once she was on the board the union used deceit to ensure her first term on the school board was her last.
“When it was time for re-election, the union went whole hog to make sure I didn’t get re-elected. Using the money they forcibly took from my paychecks, they outspent me by two digits, sent out hit pieces in the mail about me…put signs on cars at polling locations. It was non-stop.”
Union activist teachers attacked too. “You should have heard what hateful things teachers were saying. Telling me I wasn’t going to have a job. There’s a climate of hostility if you disagree with the union. You’re ostracized.”
Teachers like Karen could support unions if they would stay within their jurisdiction and stop bringing harm to teachers and kids. But they won’t, so Karen joined nine other teachers and sued California Teachers’ Association (CTA) and the National Education Association in Friedrichs v CTA. The teachers convinced the U.S. Supreme Court that forced unionism is unconstitutional, and were poised to win in 2016, but the untimely death of Justice Scalia resulted in a 4-4 deadlock.
Karen told us, “Union thuggery goes deep, so I felt hopeless after our loss. I resigned myself to the fact that I was going to have to keep paying unions until I retire.”
Karen’s hopes renewed in 2018 as Friedrichs plaintiffs supported Mark Janus in his case for employee freedom. Angry union mobs harassed the teachers as they defended children on the steps outside the court, and Karen, a thirty-one-year devoted teacher was told, “If you don’t like the union, you should just leave teaching.”
Karen, a teacher so dedicated she’d won grants to purchase ukuleles to lead a ukulele club for kids on campus during her personal time, was shocked by the disdain toward her profession and her lifelong devotion to students.
That’s the crux of the matter. Unions, masquerading as “representatives” squeeze billions from teachers annually while ravaging us and the kids we serve.
That’s why it’s so important more than a mere 10-15% of teachers opt out of union control. Janus principally freed teachers from union tentacles, but only teachers can practically grasp their own freedom.
Karen warns, “I have a friend who actually rejoined the union — not because she wanted to be a member but because she was afraid of the bullying that she’d experience if people found out she wasn’t paying union dues. She’s back in chains.”
—Lance Izumi is senior director of the Center for Education at the Pacific Research Institute. Rebecca Friedrichs is founder of For Kids and Country, author of Standing Up to Goliath: Battling State and National Teachers’ Unions for the Heart and Soul of our Kids and Country, and a veteran California public school teacher.