Why Blue Valley educators love their independent union

Why Blue Valley educators love their independent union

Why Blue Valley educators love their independent union

For decades, public-school teachers in Kansas’ Blue Valley School District were represented by a labor union affiliated with the Kansas National Education Association (KNEA) and its parent, the Washington, D.C.-based National Education Association (NEA).

But in 2019, educators in Blue Valley — the state’s fourth-largest school district — voted overwhelmingly to sever their connection to KNEA and NEA and to instead be represented only by the existing local union, the Blue Valley Education Association (BVEA).

In so doing, Blue Valley joined a growing movement in Kansas—and, increasingly, around the country—of teachers and other public employees choosing to be represented by independent, unaffiliated unions instead of the corporate, partisan, D.C.-based behemoths that make up “Big Labor.”

So, what prompted the switch and how has it played out in the years since?

Deb Hotujac has the answers.

In a new video interview released by the Freedom Foundation, Hotujac—a retired classroom teacher and BVEA president at the time of its break with the NEA—explains how Blue Valley educators failed to see a meaningful return on investment for the significant affiliation fees they had to pay to KNEA and NEA, since local union leaders already did the hard work of negotiating and administering teachers’ collective bargaining agreement with the district.

Hotujac explains that, by striking out on their own, BVEA managed to slash dues and still have ample resources to continue providing top-notch representation to district educators. Collaboration with the district was maintained or increased. And, having jettisoned the political baggage that comes along with NEA affiliation, more teachers felt comfortable joining the union as members.

After five years, Hotujac heartily recommends the independent, unaffiliated union model to other teachers willing to consider it.

“My advice to those of you who are considering a local, independent union model would be that you absolutely should explore that possibility,” Hotujac says.

Among the benefits, according to Hotujac: “You are going to find that you will be able to lower the cost of dues for your educators… You are going to find that this will unite your teachers in a way that is going to make them feel like they are working together even more as a local-focused group.”

And as for navigating the nuts and bolts of forming an independent union, Hotujac advises “[reaching] out to the Freedom Foundation for assistance with this process.”

The Freedom Foundation has helped teachers and other public employees from Liberty Lake, Wash., to Le Roy, Ill., to Miami, Fla., in forming independent unions or decertifying unions that no longer serve their interests. If you would like to learn more about either of these options or other union alternatives, contact us for assistance.

Director of Research and Government Affairs
As the Freedom Foundation’s Director of Research and Government Affairs, Maxford Nelsen leads the team working to advance the Freedom Foundation’s mission through strategic research, public policy advocacy, and labor relations. Max regularly testifies on labor issues before legislative bodies and his research has formed the basis of several briefs submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court. Max’s work has been published in local newspapers around the country and in national outlets like the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, The Hill, National Review, and the American Spectator. His work on labor policy issues has been featured in media outlets like the New York Times, Fox News, and PBS News Hour. He is a frequent guest on local radio stations like 770 KTTH and 570 KVI. From 2019-21, Max was a presidential appointee to the Federal Service Impasses Panel within the Federal Labor Relations Authority, which resolves contract negotiation disputes between federal agencies and labor unions. Prior to joining the Freedom Foundation in 2013, Max worked for WashingtonVotes.org and the Washington Policy Center and interned with the Heritage Foundation. Max holds a labor relations certificate from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and graduated magna cum laude from Whitworth University with a bachelor’s degree in political science. A Washington native, he lives in Olympia with his wife and sons.