Freedom Foundation

Dayton School District Innovation Respects Employees

Like public employees in most Washington school districts, bus drivers, food service workers, office staff and classroom aides in the Dayton School District negotiate complicated terms of employment with the district leadership team. As a result, they are guaranteed rights, a grievance process, wage increases and progressive discipline in a written agreement with the district.

Unlike most public school employees, however, they do all this without a union and pay no union dues.

Through a formal process of making and honoring a binding agreement with the classified employees, the Dayton School District leadership team wisely includes employees in decision-making.

A “Classified Employee Liaison Committee” conducts quarterly meetings and salary negotiation with management every year. To avoid the problem of one group of classified employees (such as bus drivers) dominating the others (secretaries, for example), the committee allows each employee type to select someone from their group to serve on the committee.

No union dues are required because the meetings either occur during paid time or the employees serving on the committee are paid for hours beyond the contract day.

The resulting document is a legally-binding “Classified Employees Operation Manual.”

The union business model has a flaw

Union marketing suggests that without a formal union, all employees would be exploited, mistreated and lack workplace rights and protections. Workers are told that only by paying $800 or more per year to a union can the collective decision-making process be handled.

The truth is that in most public workplaces, fellow employees – released from other duties and paid by their employer — are already negotiating the contracts, helping colleagues with grievances and monitoring discipline processes. The dirty secret of the government union business model is that most dues are not used for day-to-day union business but are sent off to bureaucracies in other cities to pay the salaries of people who may never set foot in the workplace.

Not in Dayton.

Dayton classified employees have a say in their terms of employment as a group and even as sub-groups, all without buying into unions’ scaremongering and one-size-fits-all, industrial-revolution model of collective bargaining.

For public employees looking to better control their workplace representation without the controversy, divisiveness and politics of a traditional union, Dayton’s example offers a compelling alternative.