George Bernard Shaw was a great writer, but he also penned one of the most clueless comments of all time: “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.”
Anyone who knows Pennsylvania’s schoolteachers—often described as “persistent,” “principled,” and “compassionate”—can see the lie in Shaw’s statement. And nobody knows Pennsylvania teachers better than Keith Williams, the new director of outreach with Americans for Fair Treatment (AFFT)—a former English teacher himself.
AFFT is a nonprofit organization that shares a goal with the Commonwealth Foundation: to spread the word about new labor rights for teachers and other government workers after the Janus v. AFSCME decision. Keith stepped out of a 21-year teaching career at New Oxford High in Adams County to head up AFFT as a full-time advocate for Pennsylvania union reform. Why? He cares about his fellow teachers, who want freedom from coercive union policies.
And those descriptions of Pennsylvania educators? Well, they fit Keith to a T. Keith is a teacher, but he is very much a doer. Just look at what he’s accomplished while working full-time in the classroom.
In 2013-14, Keith and over 40 other non-union school teachers in the Conewago Valley School District received an email that the teachers’ union would now be charging each of them a $435 “fair share fee” from which they could not opt out. Keith stood on principle: there was nothing fair about these fees, and the non-union teachers shouldn’t have to pay for the activities of their heavily politicized union. He organized teachers to fight the union—and won! Through persistent pushback, they convinced the local union that pressing the issue would be more trouble than it was worth.
He’s also testified in Harrisburg about one of Pennsylvania’s most unethical forms of corruption: using taxpayer resources to collect union political money. As he said in his testimony:
“What other political lobbyists have the ability to collect millions of dollars using the same staff and resources my property taxes currently support? I can think of no other group, and the only individuals I can recall who have co-mingled taxpayer resources with their political campaigning have received prison time.”
When it comes to defending teachers from union abuses, Keith doesn’t mince words. He also doesn’t waste time. Since the Supreme Court’s Janus decision freed public-sector union members from financially supporting their union’s politics, Americans for Fair Treatment has been revving up to publicize this victory.
Keith has already been interviewed by The Wall Street Journal, profiled by The Philadelphia Inquirer, and featured in the Harrisburg Patriot-News—helping to spread the news of worker freedom across the state and the nation.
Keith is already touching base with teachers and other government union workers all over the Keystone State to inform them that, after Janus, they now have a choice. They can choose to not financially support a union. They can choose if and how their own money is spent on politics. And most importantly, they can choose to teach and build and serve their community, all without violating their conscience.
Already, scores of public-sector employees have visited the AFFT website looking for a way out. The gradual proliferation of a worker freedom message to those who need it most is a very important part of Keith’s work. But it is by no means the only part. AFFT is also the plaintiff in several precedent-setting suits that have been filed over the last few years. This litigation is an important means to ensure “fair treatment” for Pennsylvania’s government workers.
AFFT’s lawsuits pinpoint the worst abuses by public-sector unions. For example, the removal of public schoolteachers from their classrooms to work a desk at union headquarters, while still being salaried on the taxpayers’ dime, is among these. This practice, called “Ghost Teaching” to describe how a school now pays a salary to an invisible educator, is now the subject of two lawsuits by the Fairness Center. AFFT serves as the plaintiff for these cases, and in one of them, Keith Williams is a primary complainant.
Now that Janus has established a groundbreaking precedent for worker freedom, AFFT will be on the front lines to bring that freedom to Pennsylvania. Legal obstacles that previously seemed insurmountable are now only a matter of time and hard work for those who care about workers more than union executives.
Keith is just the man for the job. He served from 1995 to 2006 in Search and Rescue operations under many types of threatening conditions and terrain, including recovery work at the NYC World Trade Center Disaster in September 2001. His passion to serve others and determination to overcome difficulties make him the perfect leader to rescue those without a voice from the coercive politics of powerful unions.
We look forward to the game-changing victories that he will achieve at Americans for Fair Treatment!