Commentary and Criticism about the National Education Association (NEA)
Tim Walker, writing for NEA Today on September 28, 2017, expresses the standard union position that teachers should be forced to pay dues to their unions ("With 'Janus,' Corporate Interests Launch Another Attack on Workers") whether they agree with their policies or not.
Of course, he didn't express it this way, but this is the bottom line as far as I am concerned.
Now, my commentary here is not about the boring details about the Supreme Court Case which Walker alludes to in the title of his article: Janus v. AFSCME. You can read all about it in his article as well as at the LA Times among other places on the net.
Instead, my point is simply to address the unfairness of forcing teachers to pay union dues when they don't agree with what the union represents.
TIM WALKER'S VIEWPOINT
Tim Walker has a negative view of "right to work" laws. He is against them.
Now, you might be wondering how anyone could be against the "right to work." I mean, shouldn't everyone have a right to work?
Walker doesn't like these laws because when teachers have a right to work, they don't have to pay dues to the union. He states that these laws will be "imposed .... on the entire public sector" which will mean that unions will probably lose a lot of money and thus lose their political influence and power. He is against these laws because they will harm unions.
MY POINT OF VIEW
I evaluate "right to work" laws from the perspective of an individual teacher. For me it means that I have a right to teach and not be coerced into giving up part of my paycheck to the teacher's union.
"But, but, but......the teachers' union does so much for teachers," argue supporters. "If you don't pay dues you are just a free-rider getting the benefits of unions without helping to shoulder the cost."
Sure, the teacher's union has done some good things, but I think it has outlived its usefulness.
As I wrote in my other blog, NJEA-INFO.ORG, "A Labor Day Thought: Are Teacher's Unions Really Necessary":
"I can understand the point that in the late 19th and early 20th century a worker's life was harsh. Unions formed to address some important issues like safety conditions, reasonable work week, reasonable pay, etc.
But none of this applies to teaching - at least not in the 21st century.
Most teachers work in nice surroundings, get free time during the day (a prep and lunch are at least 1 hour total), 2 months off in summer, weekends off, 10 sick days and 2 personal days, only work from 8:00 - 3:00, get full health benefits, a pension, maternity leave, etc.
The reasons for the importance of unions in the early days don't apply any longer."
In just about every other occupation, individuals personally negotiate their own contract with the company they are working for. As a result, companies offer better compensation packages to more highly qualified/efficient workers.
Why can't this also be done in education?
If I am an excellent teacher and I prove it by putting in more time and effort, why should't I get paid more than a teacher who has been in the district for 20 years but just shows up to school to collect a paycheck? Why should a teacher "with seniority" get paid more than a better qualified teacher?
Teacher contracts specify the minimum that educators have to do in order to get paid - and most teachers only do the minimum as a result.
After all, why do more when you gain nothing for it?
In effect, contracts that apply to an entire school district protect mediocre teachers and punish excellent teachers because the good teachers don't get any monetary reward for doing more than the contractual minimum.
Bottom Line: More qualified teachers should get paid more because they are better at what they do. Compensation should not simply be a factor of how many years you have been at the job or what step you are in the contract.