Get a Receipt

School districts should not collect union dues

It has been suggested that school districts should not collect dues or agency fees for teacher unions. The reasoning behind this is similar to that behind the PAC bills that passed the House last week; teachers unions themselves are at bottom political institutions, and government agencies should not spend taxpayer dollars to assist political organizations in collecting their money.

Up to now payment of teacher union dues has almost always been taken care of by the payroll department. If this proposal (HB 4929) were to become law, teachers would be in an unfamiliar position: they would be obligated to write checks for their own union dues. Eventual payment of union dues and agency fees would still be expected. Teachers who are opposed to the union may express their dissatisfaction by dragging their heels, others may refuse to pay outright, but that involves risk — unions may call for teachers who refuse to pay up to be fired. (Some advice for teachers: get a receipt.) But there are risks for the union too; if more than a handful of teachers refuse, would the MEA and AFT-Michigan be willing to accept the PR damage that comes with pushing teachers out of their jobs?

This is not the same thing as freedom-to-teach. That worthy idea lost its mojo shortly after the bill (SB 729) was introduced and was revealed to have been a political “get the MEA” proposal rather than a principled bill to give teachers the freedom to withhold support from a union that might not be serving their best interests. But eliminating the collection of dues at least leaves school districts' hands a bit cleaner. Eliminating automatic dues collection is a small step in the right direction, a step that the Legislature should be willing to take if it is in any sense serious about breaking up the stranglehold that teachers unions have over public education.