Union Membership Doesn’t Mean a Job Forever

Union Membership Doesn’t Mean a Job Forever

PRI has a helpful calculator that shows how much a union member could save throughout his or her working years from not paying union dues.  In California, the average fee-paying teacher owes $650 a year while the average worker owes $1,000.  A 45-year old teacher who leaves the union and who pays out $650 annually and plans to retire at age 65 would accumulate nearly $18,000 at a 3 percent rate of return.  A 30-year old teacher who leaves the union but works till age 65 will save a whopping $45,000 at the same rate of return.

At hearing these numbers, a friend of mine who is also a union member, shrugged it off. “So what?,” he said.  Wouldn’t you pay $1,000 annually to have job security? That’s why people stay in the union – job security trumps everything.” This gave me pause – I was stumped.  Yes, I had to admit that paying $1,000 each year to assure that your job is around forever seems worth it.

But is it?

Many school districts around the state, thanks to profligate spending over the years, have announced budget cuts and layoffs.  School districts in Los Angeles, Sacramento, and Oakland are in particularly dire straits.  Here are just a few of the announcements:

  • Sacramento
    The Sacramento Unified School District plans to lay-off 178  jobs – 77 teaching positions and the rest coming from the district staff.
  • Oakland
    The Oakland school board voted to lay off 257 positions as part of a $22 million budget cut.  Among the positions being cut are two dozen security officers, 22 kindergarten reading tutors, 20 “restorative justice” discipline officers, clerks, receptionists, college application coaches, and library technicians.
  • Oxnard
    The Oxnard school board voted to eliminate 47 positions, including preschool teachers, custodians, family liaisons, school secretaries, administrative assistants, site computer technicians and campus assistants. Union negotiations are also underway to decide both a reduction in hours and a change in work year for 86 positions including library media technicians, site outreach counselors, and campus assistants.  The district’s 21 site computer technicians could see their current 12-month work year go down to 192 days. Finally, the board is also considering a possible “reduction in force” to end 58 certificated teaching and administrator positions.
  • Coachella
    Citing a $6.8 million deficit, the Coachella Valley Unified school board voted to lay-off 81 employees.  Among those who’ll be receiving lay-off notices are 15 middle school and elementary teachers, four high school math teachers, two special education teachers, three school psychologists and nine members of the kitchen staff.
  • San Jose
    The San Jose Unified School District will lay off employees in 37 classified positions — ranging from administrative aides to secretaries and student services techs — a reduction in force administrators say will fund raises to existing employees (those who weren’t let go, of course).
  • San Diego
    The San Diego Unified School Board voted to eliminate more than 200 positions to keep a balanced budget for next year. Not all of the positions being cut are currently filled. The layoff notices will be given to 37 teachers and 66 non-teaching positions which could include bus drivers, clerks, and maintenance workers.
  • Los Angeles
    The Los Angeles Unified District announced planned late last year to cut 15 percent of central office staff for a savings of $86 million.  The school district is hoping that state revenues and the parcel tax initiative on the ballot this June will save the district from financial ruin.

These are grim announcements, but to be fair, exactly how many people will lose jobs is unclear. California school districts send layoff notices to employees as a legal requirement while creating a budget, and some employees might retain their jobs when the final budgets are approved. Nevertheless, “stressful” doesn’t begin to describe how it feels not to know if you have a job in the fall.  For many, it could be mean a serious family crisis.

The bottom line is that in times of budget crisis – which many school districts are in – unions can’t save jobs.  And since it’s often seniority that drives who goes and who stays, it’s the young people who bear the brunt of the layoffs.  Ironically, it’s also the young people who gain the most financially by not paying dues.

Rowena Itchon is senior vice president of the Pacific Research Institute.

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Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.