Compulsory unionism doesn’t benefit teachers, students, or taxpayers

PSEA Head honcho James Testerman has a response to a Tribune-Review editorial which called for making PA a right to work state – citing our report on the activity of the PSEA. Testerman charges that in right-to-work states, slavery is rampant, teachers live in the poor house, and children can’t read or write (at least not as well as they can in Pennsylvania).

Testerman tries to make Pennsylvania’s compulsory union law sound like a benefit to workers. Under Pennsylvania law, you are required to join a union or opt out and pay a “fair share” – which amounts to about 80% of the $550 deducted annually from the paychecks of paying members. Ostensibly, these dues are intended solely to be used for the costs collective bargaining, though some teachers have successfully challenged this notion and gotten all of their money returned.

Testerman’s idea that “workers have no rights or protections” is laughable. Testerman talks about right-to-work states as though they were third world countries—rather than states that are currently experiencing faster economic growth than compulsory unionism states. In right-to-work states—including Virginia, Florida, Texas, North Carolina, and most of South and West—workers can choose not to join the union, to avoid paying dues or a fare share, and be left to negotiate contracts on their own. What we are suggesting is that workers be allowed to choose whether to join the union or not.

Indeed, teachers in right-to-work states earn nearly as much as those in compulsory union states, when adjusted for cost of living (an average teacher salary of $42,910 in right-to-work states compared to $44,434 in compulsory union states). There is no evidence for Testerman’s claim that right-to-work states cannot attract teachers. And as for academic performance, right-to-work states (despite high levels of immigration) perform almost identically to compulsory union states on the NAEP test, and higher on the SAT.

He does make one accurate claim—PA teachers are among the best paid in the nation, ranking 4th when adjusted for cost of living, and is near the highest in per-pupil spending.. But this has hardly translated into academic success—Almost half (47 percent) of Pennsylvania’s 11th-grade students don’t meet proficiency standards in math on the PSSA, which overstates proficiency by 80%. The Nation’s Report Card finds that 60% of eight-grade students fail to make proficiency. Pennsylvania ranks near the bottom in SAT scores, and only 60% of black males graduate, according to one analysis.

Teacher Salary – Adjusted for Cost of Living NAEP – 8th Grade, percent proficient in Reading NAEP – 8th Grade, percent proficient in Math SAT – Mean Combined (3 sections)
Forced Union $44,434 32% 33% 1579
Right to Work $42,910 29% 30% 1621
PA $51,160 36% 38% 1478