Troubling Features of Pa. Teacher Contracts

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Union-negotiated collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) dictate the compensation packages and workplace conditions of over 100,000 teachers in Pennsylvania's 500 school districts—regardless of their union membership.

As the “exclusive representative” of all teachers in a school district, local union leaders negotiate contracts with school boards in closed-door meetings, typically every four years. Teachers are expected to ratify contract renewal terms after negotiations and have few recourses to change the terms.

Between June and August 2018, 125 CBA's will expire. As union leaders and school boards negotiate, it's worth asking “what's in these contracts?” While outlining wages and benefits, they also include lesser-known union perks at the cost of teachers’ freedom. 

  • Dues and fees. Teachers pay approximately $800 annually in membership dues, primarily to the state and national unions. However, over 80 percent of districts still require non-union teachers to pay the union—or lose their jobs. These teachers cannot represent themselves, but pay this forced “fair share” or “agency” fee, which still costs around three-quarters of full dues.
  • Maintenance of Membership. State law “maintenance of membership” limits union resignation to a 15-day window prior to a CBA's expiration. Though districts can modify their maintenance of membership requirements, this means many teachers can remain trapped in their union for years. Just one district explicitly gives workers the right to resign at any time.
  • Union Release Time. More than 90 percent of contracts include “release time” language, allowing district employees to do union work on school time—and often on the taxpayer dime. Most districts designate a set amount of days, or even hours each day, for union members to attend union meetings or conduct union business. What's more, nearly a quarter of districts also allow teachers to work as full-time union employees, or ghost teachers.

(Techer Contract Overview)

Read through our policy memo for more details, and to find out what's in your school district's teacher contracts, sort through the chart below.

(CBA Database)

Contracts that compel membership and financial support—and limit any ability to change the status quo—disserve Pennsylvania's professional educators.

Yet, many teachers are fighting for greater union accountability and workplace rights. For example, four Pennsylvania teachers have filed a lawsuit in Harnett v. PSEA to stop the anti-worker practice of being forced to fund an organization to which they don’t belong.

If the U.S. Supreme Court justices side with Mark Janus in his lawsuit to end fair share fees, Hartnett could help ensure Pennsylvania teachers also gain these rights they deserve.