Compelled Union Dues and Divisive Campaigns

Last year, the Wall Street Journal reported that 50% of public school teachers oppose compelled union dues. No doubt, many of these thousands of teachers have diverse reasons for opposing dues. For instance, not all teachers take principled objections to the specific policies promoted through collective bargaining like the plaintiffs in Friedrichs v. CTA.

However, in an election year such as this, the divide between union leadership and membership is on full display.

The Teacher’s unions made the controversial decision early on in the presidential primaries to endorse Hillary Clinton, a decision to which many of their members quickly objected.

The New York Times notes that Hillary has not been perceived as the most union-friendly candidate, and in states like Michigan union members have demonstrated this by casting a large majority of their votes for Sanders. As one former NEA member observed in the Huffington Post,  “If the NEA follows the AFT and makes a presidential primary endorsement without ample membership involvement, its teachers will feel silenced by their own union. Not only would that likely depress voter mobilization efforts and spark a backlash within the union, it also runs counter to the very principles of what a union is supposed to be.”

However, on the other side of the aisle, Time Magazine reports that Donald Trump is winning a majority of union members in states like Massachusetts, even as unions are spending a tremendous amount of money collected from dues to campaign against Trump.

Even union leadership has acknowledged Trump’s appeal. “Donald Trump is tapping into the very real and very understandable anger of working people,” Richard Trumka told a gathering of construction unionists. “When Trump says we’re losing, his message resonates with some folks. And when he yells or lashes out, he finds a sympathetic audience who wishes more politicians would express the frustration they feel.”

Yet even though union leadership acknowledges the frustration and political sympathies of their members, they continue to use those member’s dues to finance politics with which so many members disagree.

No wonder 50% of teachers believe compelled union dues are wrong.