Teachers Want Political Independence from Union

Published December 1, 2007

Sixty-nine percent of teachers in Washington say funds for their union’s political involvement should come from voluntary sources, not mandatory collective bargaining dues, according to an independent survey commissioned in September by the Evergreen Freedom Foundation.

EFF commissioned the survey in light of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Davenport v. Washington Education Association (WEA), issued in June.

Seventy-two percent of teachers agreed with the Court’s ruling permitting states to require unions to ask before spending member dues on politics.

The poll also found 73 percent of teachers agreed “teachers should not be forced to pay for someone else’s politics, including the WEA’s.” Ten years ago when EFF asked teachers the same question, 62 percent agreed.

The details give some unique insights into the 10-year trend. The shift was much larger among teachers who usually vote for Democrats than among those who usually vote for Republicans.

In 1997, a little more than half of Democrat-voting teachers agreed with the statement. Today, two-thirds agree (an increase of 14 percentage points). The shift in those who usually vote Republican went from eight of 10 teachers to nine of 10 (up 11 percentage points).

  1997 2007
Republican 81% 92%
Independent 67% 66%
Democratic 52% 66%

The trend is surprising given WEA’s near-monopoly of teacher trust and its decade-long campaign to convince teachers it knows best when it comes to politics. The survey shows WEA’s message has not resonated with teachers, even those who side with it ideologically.

For more information …

“Teachers reject mandatory union political dues”: http://www.effwa.org/main/article.php?article_id=2145&number=265

“Poll Slides”: http://www.effwa.org/WAteachersummary/index.html

Web Site Posts Pennsylvania Teacher Salaries

Armed with Pennsylvania’s Right to Know law, StopTeacherStrikes, Inc. is posting teacher salaries on the Web, giving local communities a window into what teachers are earning.

The move has upset many teachers, but StopTeacherStrikes founder Simon Campbell replied, “The teachers’ names and salaries are public information. It’s just our way of injecting public knowledge of how their tax dollars are being spent.” The organization wants to remind teachers “they are public servants accountable to the taxpayers,” he said.

Pennsylvania is the teacher strike capital of the United States. Despite ranking ninth in the nation for teacher salaries, the state’s educators routinely hold students and communities hostage over salary demands.

Recent rumblings in Seneca Valley, Pennsylvania included teacher demands for a 35 percent raise over five years. The increase would raise the average teacher salary from $53,000 to $70,000 a year.

School boards are at a disadvantage when it comes to tempering exorbitant union demands, and strikes often sway the emotions of the community at the expense of fiscal responsibility. StopTeacherStrikes and its Web postings are helping school boards counter those feelings.

For example, when tensions ran high in both the Cumberland Valley School District and Seneca Valley School District and teachers talked about striking, local media venues noted their salaries were available at the StopTeacherStrikes Web site.

For more information …

StopTeacherStrikes: http://www.stopteacherstrikes.com

“Web site shows salaries in CV”: http://www.cumberlink.com/articles/2007/09/26/news/news168.txt

Blackmail Doesn’t Pay

Unions can easily operate as cartels, and in more ways than one.

The Heritage Foundation reports, “When the city of Roseville, California applied for permits to build a new power plant in 2004, California Unions for Reliable Energy submitted a detailed request for environmental information about the project to use in filing objections. The city estimated that union-induced construction delays and higher permitting costs would increase the cost of the project by $15 million, while hiring union workers would only raise costs by $3 million. The city signed a PLA [project labor agreement] and the union withdrew its information request.”

Section 8(e) of the National Labor Relations Act prohibits employers from agreeing to refrain from doing business with a non-union employer, but Project Labor Agreements (PLA) are exempted. Fortunately for many employers, the National Labor Relations Board recently ruled Section 8(e) exemptions do not include PLAs signed under duress (threat of force).

When Indeck Energy Services, Inc. applied for permits to build power plants in upstate New York, the Building and Construction Trades Council filed objections to Indeck’s environmental impact statements. The union threatened, “they would stop every Indeck project in New York unless it went union.”

When Indeck agreed, the unions reversed their environmental objections and went to bat for the projects.

When Indeck tried to get out of the PLA, the union sued, but the NLRB ruled the union’s earlier threat invalidated the contract.

The Heritage Foundation concludes, “Congress should change the law so that the government does not enforce project labor agreements signed after regulatory blackmail.”

For more information …

“Congress Should Stop Environmental Blackmail by Unions”: https://mail.effwa.org/exchweb/bin/redir.asp?URL=http://www.heritage.org/Research/Labor/wm1624.cfm

Ryan Bedford ([email protected]) is a labor analyst with the Evergreen Freedom Foundation in Olympia, Washington.