A Tale Of Two School Boards

A Tale Of Two School Boards

A Tale Of Two School Boards

Earlier this year, the La Center school board made a public commitment to let employees choose whether or not to fund the unions. The members passed a resolution despite union activists’ objections that affirmed employees should be in control of their workplace representation by having the right to choose whether to support the union financially.

Also earlier this year, the Eatonville School Board yielded to union bargaining and agreed that teachers would from now on be forced to pay the union roughly $900 for the privilege of teaching Eatonville students.

Last year, union payment was optional.

What were the Eatonville board members thinking?

What does it matter to school managers whether teachers are forced to pay? What is the union willing to give up at the bargaining table in return for guaranteed cash flow? How aggressive will union officials become when deprived of the money that is their reason for operating?

Union operators insist on having this government-granted monopoly on workplace representation with the power to block any teacher from hiring their own lawyer or advocate for workplace assistance. As a result of this unfair monopoly, the union claims it should have the ability to force everyone to pay an inflated rate for this assistance.

A clunky and unfair refund process can, at times, be accessed by teachers, but this is no substitute for free choice.

It would be better for all school boards to insist on making union payment optional like La Center did for five reasons.

First, forced association and compelled speech is a violation of basic human rights. The U.S. Supreme Court has affirmed this, and union-forced speech is currently being challenged in the U.S. Supreme Court case of Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association.

Thomas Jefferson explained the injustice when he said:

To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves, is sinful and tyrannical.

Second, forced payment diminishes union officials’ obligation to be accountable to members. Unions that must earn members are more attentive to their priorities. Extraneous causes and extreme positions are avoided when those running the union risk losing revenue.
Likewise, the charges are higher when payment is mandatory.

Third, forced union payment shifts control away from citizens, families and elected school leadership teams. This move guarantees growing revenue for the union agenda of higher costs, lighter workloads and lower accountability.

Union officials are more strident and aggressive on behalf of these goals when their income is guaranteed no matter what they do. In an era when it’s getting harder to balance the interests of students with the interests of adult employees, it does not make sense to artificially amplify the voice of the union officials.

Fourth, forced fees without consumer protections for teachers are unfair. Union officials have gotten politicians to give them a financial enterprise without even rudimentary consumer protections for those they represent.

Under the current weak state laws, public-sector unions can charge whatever they wish, use the money however they please, conceal how money is spent from those who pay, decide priorities without member input, and have minimal, vague obligations for the money collected.

Fifth, forced fees tip power away from local control and toward the union statewide agenda. The Washington Education Association (dues of $434) and the National Education Association (dues of $183) have nearly nothing to do with the local priorities or representation obligations, but forced fee arrangements hand employees’ money over to these entities anyway.


Senior Policy Analyst
Jami Lund is the Freedom Foundation’s Senior Policy Analyst. From 2004 to 2011, he developed legislative policy as a research analyst for the Washington House Republican Caucus. Prior to that he worked for the Freedom Foundation as the Project Manager for the Teachers Paycheck Protection project, shepherding the development of the Foundation’s landmark U.S. Supreme Court case to protect teacher rights. Jami is an accomplished speaker and researcher, one of Washington state’s top scholars on education policy and finance.