At issue | Various articles and columns on union protests around the nation
Like the rest of America, teachers in Kentucky have been following the news in Wisconsin and elsewhere as thousands of union teachers are converging at statehouses across the country. Some used fake doctor's notes to protest as school systems across the state were forced to shut their doors. These protests have outraged teachers from coast to coast, leaving many questioning their membership in local unions and have even led some to search for alternatives.
The clash between public sector unions and state governments has been brewing for years as states and localities are faced with unprecedented budget shortfalls and underfunded pensions and health care policies in forced union states. Despite pleas to work with unions from legislators, union bosses have made it clear that they would rather see teachers laid off in certain states than make concessions during difficult economic times.
The proposed legislation by the Wisconsin governor reduces the superpower status of the teachers unions by ending forced unionism — the practice in which one is required to pay the union as a condition of employment.
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On the contrary, what could be more democratic than allowing teachers to make the choice for themselves whether the union meets their needs?
In no way does the legislation eliminate the union; rather, it reins in its ability to forcibly collect dues from teachers. The practice of allowing teachers to think for themselves effectively cuts off millions to union political action accounts.
With its monopoly being threatened, the union is pulling out all the stops to disable this legislation, regardless of the effect on the professionalism of teachers, children in the classroom, or taxpaying citizens.
The unions have enabled AWOL legislators in Wisconsin with their rhetoric, fueled never-ending protests, trashed state capitols, and left their posts in the classroom for days — all in an effort to halt this legislation. Their leaders are clearly more concerned with strikes and sick-outs than the students of Wisconsin.
For years, local educators have joined teachers unions in thinking their money was going to advance their profession. Unfortunately, the National Education Association (NEA) and their local counterpart, the Kentucky Education Association (KEA), have grown into behemoth special-interest groups that clearly do not use their member dues exclusively for the advancement of the teaching profession.
Luckily for Kentucky teachers, they can and should make informed choices on where to spend their hard-earned dollars. Many local union teachers believe that because they aren't forced to pay union dues, this behavior does not affect their membership in the KEA.
On the contrary, rwhether dues are forcibly collected or not does not change the fact that teachers directly support the tactics of the NEA at large through their dues contribution.
What teachers need to know is that the KEA and NEA are organizations whose goals are centered on funding liberal advocacy groups, social causes and the ability to coerce teachers into the unprofessional behavior exhibited in Wisconsin. They will stop at nothing to keep dues money flowing, their organizations powerful and, in some states, mandatory.
The writing is on the wall: The time is now for teachers to understand their options. The fact is that there is a non-union, professional association as an alternative for Kentucky teachers called the Association of American Educators.
As a nationwide organization for educators, AAE provides legal and liability insurance and professional development resources at a fraction of the cost of union dues.
If teachers find they cannot identify with tactics used by KEA's national partner and the unprofessional behavior exhibited by teachers in Wisconsin, then the time is now to reassess your membership. Our teachers deserve an organization that they can be proud of.