Classified School Employees Rethinking Their Representation

Classified School Employees Rethinking Their Representation

Classified School Employees Rethinking Their Representation

Some people love their unions, and they aren’t shy about letting you know. Others are less than satisfied with their unions.

What they all have in common is a desire to make their own choices rather than have one forced on them by a third party with their own agenda.

Imagine you were a classified employee or an employee related to education, but not a teacher. Maybe you’re a bus driver, a custodian, or any number of other support employees involved with education.

Now imagine you belong to the same union as the teachers. Do you really think you are going to receive the representation you deserve? Jane didn’t think so, and she sent us this note:

I am a paraeducator, and I pay my dues to the union but have a question. Why do we pay to the teachers’ union? They do not help us. Even though we also teach, we are not paid as a teacher is. The teachers’ union has very high dues for a paraeducator not getting teachers wages … I feel paying the teachers’ union is taking advantage of underpaid paraeducators. Thank you.”

Union operators are not particular about who they collect dues money from. The United Autoworkers Union, for example, found a way to take dues from college graduate students. The United Food and Commercial Workers are capturing the marijuana industry employees. The Laborers International Union of North America union takes money from epidemiologists. The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers union collects dues from the wages of attorneys.

Even from the perspective of ardent union supporters, these mercenary grabs of bargaining units outside of the area of the union’s expertise are cringeworthy.

The Washington Education Association and the National Education Association are focused on the interests of teachers, and even other certificated professionals like speech pathologists, social workers, occupational therapists, or nurses can feel like stepchildren of the bargaining unit.

When WEA facilitated the Spokane teachers’ strike, the belt-tightening to afford the teacher’s raises fell on classified staff. When the imbalance between the employee benefits of teachers and classified school employees prompted legislation to create a uniform benefit system for school employees, WEA spent tens of thousands of dollars opposing the legislation.

Unfortunately for those in unions that don’t really work on their issues as a primary purpose, they have no voice. They may have been captured as a bargaining unit of WEA years ago, but the process for changing representation is clunky and favors existing union operators.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2018 ruling in Janus v. AFSCME, however, these employees can boycott a union that treats them as an afterthought. Worker freedom brings union accountability — if they know they have the power to end the dues.

So Freedom Foundation told all classified employees who are stuck funding the NEA about

Last week, we told 15,000 of them. We sent them a note saying:

Most of the dues paid by classified public school employees represented by the WEA goes to the teachers’ union headquarters in Federal Way and Washington, D.C. The money the union charges classified employees tends to get dumped into the war chest for marketing and activism on behalf of teachers and even strikes for teacher raises.

WEA could afford to overlook the unique issues important to classified employees when your dues payment was mandatory. Now, however, the U.S. Supreme Court guaranteed your right to choose whether or not to pay WEA/NEA.

If you think classified employees’ interests are getting inadequate attention from WEA/NEA, you can end your dues deduction until you see better service. That is the power and accountability the court’s decision gave you.

Offering the power back to classified employees like Jane is exactly what the Freedom Foundation outreach accomplishes on a daily basis.

National Outreach Director
Before joining the Freedom Foundation, Matthew worked as supervisor at the Washington State Department of Agriculture, where he coordinated efforts between federal and state agencies, tribes, and volunteer organizations in the Puget Sound. Grassroots politics has provided Matthew with many unique and sometimes controversial experiences. These experiences range from successfully building coalitions between different factions to training and organizing volunteers to maximize their effectiveness. Matthew’s passion for freedom to educate citizens about their Constitutional rights is strong and unwavering. “I not only measure success by results, bu t by the integrity of the action taken to achieve the result.” —Matthew H.