For Immediate Release
The Commonwealth Foundation
Union Abuses Force Pennsylvania Teachers to Speak Out
Teacher unions get special treatment; force teachers and taxpayers to pay for political activities
September 19th, 2013 – Today, teachers from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh have come together to voice their opposition to unfair teachers’ union practices, including automatically taking money from teachers’ paychecks, whether they are union members or not – and it is all done at taxpayers’ expense.
“It’s kind of a parasitic situation where the unions feed off of teachers.
They see teachers as cash cows.”
– Julie, Central Dauphin School District
Teachers’ unions can force many teachers in Pennsylvania to pay dues or a “fair share fee” that’s taken out of teachers’ paychecks. What’s more, this withholding of fair share fees, union dues, and even union political contributions is done at taxpayers’ expense, and the teachers have no choice.
This practice has been going on for years in many school districts, while other teachers find themselves newly forced into paying hundreds of dollars for something they don’t want.
“We are forced by our employer to pay a private organization to keep our jobs.
To me, it is basically extortion, pay this private entity or lose your job.”
– Keith, Conewago Valley School District
Julie, Keith, and other teachers across the state oppose union leaders using them to line their own pockets and push their own political agendas. Matthew Brouillette, president and CEO of the Commonwealth Foundation and a former high school history teacher, commented:
“We would never think of forcing workers to fund private political organizations like the NRA or Planned Parenthood. But tens of thousands of teachers across Pennsylvania are required to pay into union coffers while watching union leaders finance a political agenda they oppose. Taxpayer resources should not be used for any political purposes under any circumstances.”
Today, teachers are taking a bold stand and telling the stories of the harm these unfair practices are causing. The Commonwealth Foundation stands with these teachers in their quest for fairness and the freedom to make their own decisions with their hard-earned money.
- Teachers will be available for interviews after classes end at 3:30 p.m. and after. To interview a teacher in your local area, please use the below contact information.
- Throughout the day – Commonwealth Foundation experts are available to give perspective and facts about automatic dues collection and how it unfairly forces teachers and taxpayers to pay for the political activities of teachers’ unions.
NOTE: Video clips, examples of union political activity, and polling data are available below.
Pennsylvania grants public-sector unions special privileges available to no other private organizations in the state. Member dues and even PAC contributions are automatically deducted from employees’ paychecks and sent to union bank accounts using public resources.
The Commonwealth Foundation’s detailed analysis of automatic dues collection in Pennsylvania is available here.
Additionally, Pennsylvania is a forced-union state, meaning teachers who don’t want to join the union often still have to forfeit a portion of their paychecks as a “fair share fee” in order to keep their jobs.
What union dues fund:
In 2012, the state’s main government unions, the largest of which is the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA), spent nearly $5 million of member dues on political activities and lobbying. These expenditures do not require the approval of members and often advocate for policies counter to teachers’ own beliefs.
- The June/July 2013 edition of the PSEA Voice featured this four-page, politically-charged ad.
- Earlier this year, Pennsylvanians for Accountability, a non-profit financed by the Service Employees International Union, released this political television ad ripping the governor.
- During the Philadelphia schools funding crisis the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers released this video ad criticizing Mayor Nutter.
- Earlier this year, the United Food and Commercial Workers union used union dues to pay for this video ad making false claims about liquor privatization.
While teachers should be free to support the candidates and causes of their choice, they should not be forced to subsidize political causes with which they disagree—and taxpayer resources should not be used to collect union dues, fees, and PAC money.
- In this video clip, Donna Gordon, a teacher in the Avon Grove School District, says she opposes the political nature of union activity, yet she, and many other teachers in her district, will soon be forced to pay fees to the PSEA or lose her job. Donna Gordon is unavailable for comment today, but an interview can be scheduled for another time.
Polling shows public support for ending automatic dues collection:
A survey conducted in June 2013 (click for summary) shows majority support for changes to the unfair advantages Pennsylvania grants public sector unions.
- 79% of voters (and 75% of union members) agree that unions should not be permitted to use taxpayer funded resources to collect union dues.
- 59% believe unions spend too much money on political advocacy.
- 66% believe workers should have the freedom to choose to pay a union or not.
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