Questions About Teachers Unions?

A coming Supreme Court ruling may significantly impact your rights as an educator.

At Christian Educators Association International, we know that there are many different opinions about teachers unions. Some Christian educators refuse to belong to unions because of their view that national and state unions advance unbiblical political and moral views on important issues. Others are grateful for union-negotiated contracts and have a sense of loyalty to their local union. We also know many feel called to impact their unions from within.

Regardless of your view, if you teach in a forced union state, you are likely going to have to make an important decision this summer. Many observers expect that the U.S. Supreme Court is going to free all public school educators from forced unionism in the Janus v. AFSCME case, with a ruling expected in June.

After Janus, you may have the choice to join a union, join another professional association like CEAI, or join nothing at all. We encourage you to get the facts and pray about this important decision. We at CEAI are not anti-union, but are opposed to forced union membership. If you feel God is leading you to stay in your union, then do that. But if you feel Him leading you to other options, then we would love to serve you as a member. Here are a few important resources to help you in this decision.

Can CEAI Protect Me if I Have a Problem at my School? 

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4 Ways Teachers Unions Have Abandoned Christian Teachers 

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I Am a New Teacher. Do I Have to Join a Union? 

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Teachers Share: A Big Chunk of our Money Goes to State and National Union Politics 

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My union told me they weren’t spending my dues on politics. When I found out they weren’t being honest, they sued me with my own dues! 

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Betrayed, Shocked, and Hurt By My Union

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Teachers Are Unknowingly Funding Planned Parenthood. Here are 2 ways they can stop. 

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Roe v. Wade after 45 years

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Mark Janus Wants You to Have a Choice 

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NEA Bans Christian Groups From Their Conventions 

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Does NEA spending on politics represent their members? 

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How will Janus affect my state? 

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What causes, candidates, and positions does the NEA support with members’ dues? 

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Am I paid more because I live in a state that requires union membership and mandates collective bargaining? Actually, no. 

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Frequently Asked Questions About Leaving Teachers Unions

With the coming ruling in the Janus case, many educators are asking questions about the possibility of leaving their unions. At Christian Educators Association International, we are not anti-union, but are against forced union membership and are concerned about moral and political causes that state and national unions support. Our hope is that you have the freedom to choose how your money is spent. Don’t see your question below? Ask us here.

1. Will I lose benefits if I leave my union?

It is against the law for unions to negotiate contracts that exclude those who are not members of the union. Collective bargaining agreements apply to all employees in the bargaining unit. You will have all the rights and protections of the negotiated contract even if you are no longer paying dues to the union.

2. Would it be disloyal to leave my union?

Many teachers have a sense of loyalty to their local union because of favorable union actions toward them or value for relationships with union members. This is perfectly understandable. But if loyalty is the question, then consider the following: When you joined your local union, were you told that your membership required you to also financially support the state and national union affiliates?—affiliates that advance policies you may disagree with on non-educational issues like abortion, marriage, gender identity, illegal immigration, etc.? Did they tell you that almost all of the state and national affiliate political spending would go to one political party and their causes regardless of the diverse political views of their membership? Are they being loyal to you?

CEAI Executive Director David Schmus addressed some of these issue in a recent speech, in which he also pointed out that the NEA recently banned three Christian groups from their conventions, and have sometimes refused to defend their own members exercising their religious freedoms on campus.

3. If I agree that my state and national unions are working against my values, can I just belong to my local union?

Typically not. Both the NEA and the AFT have provisions that require members of their locals to also be members of their state and national organizations.  However, you could donate funds to your local union to support their collective bargaining activities if you choose. If you were to join Christian Educators Association International rather than a union, you would experience hundreds of dollars in annual savings—some of which you could use to support your local union if desired. Of course, you could also use your savings to support Christian ministries or other charities.  

An increasing number of local teachers unions are deciding to leave the NEA and AFT to become “local only” unions and end the affiliation with state and national unions through a process known as decertification. Decertification allows the bargaining unit members the opportunity to still bargain collectively with the school district but end the payment of high dues, while allowing all to participate in the decisions impacting their employment. There are more than 350,000 educators who have exercised this right across the nation. If you would like more information about decertification, please contact us here.

4. Will I lose my voice in contract negotiations and district policies?

As a non-member, it’s possible that you will have less access to the collective bargaining process through the union, and you will typically not be permitted to vote on a union-negotiated contract. However, as a teacher in your district, you always can have input simply by reaching out to district leaders.

5. I’ve been told that none of my dues will go to support political candidates with whom I may disagree. Is that true?

While it is technically correct that unions can only use voluntary political contributions to contribute directly to political candidates (particularly at the national level), direct political contributions represent only a fraction of what unions spend on politics. (A Wall Street Journal analysis concluded that direct political contributions are only about 25% of what public employees’ unions spend on politics.). Unions spend money on politics in at least three additional ways:

First, unions can spend an unlimited amount of dues money to educate their own members and their members families about their endorsements. This can include candidate meet and greet meetings, phone banks, and mailings and union publications. When they are part of a group of unions, like the AFL-CIO or local labor councils, they can combine resources to reach out to member households of all the unions in the partnership.

Second, because of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, unions can make “independent expenditures” of dues money to independent PACs (Super PACs) that influence the outcome of races, but do not contribute directly to or communicate with the candidates.  Unionfacts.com reported that in 2015 the NEA contributed over $30 million and AFT contributed over $35 million in union dues on such funds and lobbying.

Third, public employees unions like the NEA and AFT spend millions on salaries for political activists that often spend 100% of their time on political activity. Sometimes these union employees are “loaned” to function essentially as campaign staffers for favored candidates.

So when your union talks about “political spending,” they are typically only speaking about direct political contributions to candidates, not nearly the entirety of what they spend to influence elections.

6. The union does a lot of work in representing teachers. Isn’t it just fair that we all pay something for this?

Most state bargaining laws grant the union that wins a collective bargaining election exclusive bargaining rights. This means that no other organization can represent employees in bargaining with the school district. So, math teachers, Christian teachers, teachers who feel lowering class size is more important than increasing salaries, or any other group cannot form their own organization to bargain with the district or even formally advocate for changes in the contract. The union is also able to bargain a variety of provisions that give them exclusive access to members and nonmembers, like making announcements at faculty meetings, use of school bulletin boards, payroll deduction of dues, use of district mail systems and access to employee mailing lists. In exchange for all these exclusive rights that make it very difficult for anyone to unseat them and very easy for them to recruit members, they are required to represent all employees through what is called duty of fair representation.  This means that they cannot treat members any differently than nonmembers under the contract.

The only real leverage that teachers have over the union is to join or not join based on whether you feel they represent you well.

7. Should I stay in my union and try to change it from within?

If you feel God calling you to this, then you should. After all, He raised Daniel and Esther to affect nations. But if unsure, consider that local unions have very little influence over the politics of the state and national unions. Unless you rise up to levels of state or national leadership, your ability to sway your union on the issues they support will likely be negligible. Also consider that the unions may be forced to moderate their views to retain and regain members if many teachers like you leave. But if the union keeps receiving dues, what is their incentive to change?