A labor union is an organization of workers formed for the purpose of advancing its members' interests (wages, benefits and working conditions). Only 22 states, including Arkansas, have right-to-work laws which prohibit making union membership a condition of employment in any business organized by unions.
Recent federal rules have been enacted, initiated by Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, that now require large unions to disclose how they disperse money (collected from members) in much more detail.
Union leaders across the country had opposed this legislation. The AFL-CIO claimed it would cost in excess of $1 billion to comply with the new rules. In reality, it cost the union $54,000 to come forth with more detailed disclosures, about half of what they spent on litigation fighting the new requirements in court.
The National Education Association (NEA) is the country's largest teachers union with 2.7 million members. The union had $341 million in total receipts last year with $295 million of it coming directly from member dues.
The NEA has 600 employees with a payroll of $58 million. While teachers in the United States make an average of $48,000 per year, half of the employees at NEA make over $100,000, and the union president, Reg Weaver, has an annual salary of $439,000. Basically, union members are paying higher than necessary dues to a union that diverts an exorbitant percentage of the funds to benefit the union hierarchy.
The union seems to have two major goals.
Their first goal is to stifle competition. In 34 states, school boards are required to bargain collectively with teachers. The NEA and AFT (American Federation of Teachers, a smaller union) currently share almost 100 percent of the market for teacher representation. These two unions, with fulltime legal staffs, make it virtually impossible for teachers to join/form other unions or even allow non-union teachers to exist in some states.
The NEA contributed $500,000 to a Washington-based anti-charter school group called Protect Our Public Schools in an effort to block school choice for underprivileged children, even though charter schools are also public schools. They also donated $51,000 to People for the American Way, an anti-voucher organization.
Obviously, the NEA doesn't want parents to have any options as to where their children go to school, even though studies have consistently shown this would benefit the children. Freedom of choice is stifled once again.
The other main goal of the NEA is to promote ultra-liberal causes, including the following partial list:
* Jesse Jackson's Rainbow PUSH Coalition.
* The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.
* AIDS Walk Washington (promotes gay and lesbian causes.)
* Human Rights Campaign (lobbies for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equal rights).
* The National Women's Law Center (opposes Bush's Supreme Court nominations).
* Floridians for All Committee (helps redirect Florida politics toward the Democrat Party).
* Amnesty International (advocates for civil liberties in foreign countries).
Pardon my ignorance, but I fail to understand how any of these organizations, or many other similar liberal causes, advances the teaching profession or benefits students. Now that major unions are required to disclose what they do with member dues, perhaps some sanity will be restored to the activity of unions. For too long, union leaders have bilked dues-paying members to benefit themselves and further their personal agendas.
It seems foolish to pay union leaders more than double what you make to do your thinking for you. Even if you believe in all the causes supported by the union, you could make contributions on your own directly to the cause and thereby eliminate the greedy middleman. It's bad enough to be ripped off by management, but when you get ripped off by those who are supposed to protect you from management it's twice as bad.
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Bret Burquest is an award-winning columnist and author of four novels, which are available at Amazon.com. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.