Vermont Teacher on Agency Fees

Peter Berger is a teacher in Ascutney, Vermont. He wrote an op-ed about agency fees for the Stowe Reporter. Here are a few paragraphs:

The union’s proffered justification is that nonmembers benefit from the contract negotiated by the union. That rationalization makes some initial sense. However, it fails to tell the whole story.

If you enter a restaurant and choose to buy lunch, the owner has the right to charge you for lunch, and you would expect to pay for it. If you choose not to buy lunch, you’d rightly expect that you wouldn’t have to pay for it. That’s because you have a choice.

In the case of contract negotiations, teachers don’t have a choice. I’m not allowed to negotiate my own contract because long ago the union lobbied for and won the statutory sole right to negotiate for me.

Having taken from me the right to negotiate my own contract, the union now wants to charge me for something I never wanted it to do. This is like having a customer decline to order a sandwich, allowing the proprietor to cram most of it down her throat, and then making her pay for eighty-five percent of it.

…Having obscured that essential unfairness, the National Education Association complains that union members’ dues currently “cover the costs” of bargaining and representation while nonmembers “reap the benefits.” In short, argues the union, my dues are higher than they should be because nonmembers aren’t paying their “fair share.”

Does anyone seriously believe that once all these nonmembers start paying this allegedly “fair share,” the association will be “fair” enough to reduce my membership dues since the union’s expenses will be divided among so many more teachers?


One thought on “Vermont Teacher on Agency Fees”

  1. My local teachers association got agency fee (or fair share) in 1984. For at least six years after that, we maintained the same dues we had levied in 1984. We were able to do that despite increasing costs because newly-hired non-member beneficiaries of our negotiations efforts began paying the fees.

    Did that benefit all the rest of the people who had been dues-paying members all along? You bet it did! The dues which the members had to pay during those six years were strikingly lower than they would have had to pay if the non-members had not been forced to kick in.

    BTW– All this was despite a “grand-parenting” clause which applied the agency fee obligation only to those who were already members in 1984 or to those hired after the signing of the contract. Those unit members who were not members when the contract was signed were never obligated to pay the fees. Of course, as the years went on, those folks became a smaller and smaller component of the educators in the unit.

    One thing I never saw during that transitional period was even one “grand-parented” non-member volunteer to give up the increases in compensation and benefits which other peoples’ money had gained for everyone, including the freeloaders.

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