Slaves to the Teacher Unions


The teacher unions are a longstanding cancerous influence on the body politic. They are highly accomplished in the art of political pressure, and funnel money into the accounts of whatever political candidates will uphold their monopoly on public schooling. In the 2000 election cycle, $2.7 million found its way into the Democratic Party war chest and was quite useful in promoting the idea that more governmental intervention in our economy is needed as a panacea for everything (the issue of state paid prescription drug coverage is a prime example). This past year in Florida , $3 million was poured into the McBride campaign in the hopes of defeating Govenor Jeb Bush. I am certain that the rank and file of the Florida unions would not be pleased to know their riches were wasted in such a fashion.

Unfortunately, this writer must admit to being one of the dupes whose pay fuels the enormous statist machines that are America's teacher unions. This year my coerced contribution amounted to about $480, but it grows every time I receive a raise. When I first started working, I was completely unaware of their political machinations, but by 2001, I learned that the profits from my work were being spent to sponsor ideas and policies to which I am diametrically opposed. I resolved to act, through letters or complaints or whatever, but did not know where to begin.

I spoke to my building union representative, who told me that there was a way to separate contributions from the union proper and its political action committee. He did not know exactly how to go about doing it, so he gave me the number of our area representative. When I called her, she was cordial but wondered 'why I would not want to support the PAC. It's for political candidates who are pro-education.'

Ah yes, 'pro-education.' That's always the way it's phrased. It doesn't make any difference that most of these people running for office haven't had any new ideas since 1905, but they're still pro-education. The unions are married to the equation of 'increased funding = better education,' but this is a fallacious idea, as spending (in real dollars) has increased exponentially since the 1960s. We spend more for less today than ever before.

I told her that I hoped that education would improve with her candidates, but that I did not ask to make any political contributions with my dues, and that I thought it improper of the union to do that without my consent. She then engaged in a couple more lame attempts to guilt me into volunteering for the union's kleptocratic plan, but I stood fast. Finally, my representative stated that it was only $10 a year, so what was the big deal? 'A very big deal to me,' I answered. In fact, I was surprised at how low the actual amount deducted for the PAC was, though even if it was only a penny, I was determined to have it be stripped from their East German hands.

The union steward then dropped the anvil and informed me that if I refused to donate the money to the PAC, I would not be allowed to vote in local elections or have a say in the ratification of our contracts. I was taken aback. I still cannot see any legitimate link between a refusal to endorse the donkey-crats and my right to vote on the contract that I work under. I could not believe what I was hearing. Our union rules appear to have been written by some of the extras from the film On the Waterfront.

I had two options: take it or leave it. I left it, and at least one union member won't be contributing to the unreasonable growth of our state. I chose to vote with my feet, and $10 never meant so much to me before in my life.

I remain a member of the union today and have a mailbox full of letters and unread magazines to prove it. If one calculated the amount of money they've wasted sending me credit card applications and loan solicitations, you'd have enough to start up a corner Kinko's.

Even though I have been barred from their official decision making, the union has not given up hope that I'll be brought into the fold. In the fall of 2002, they sent me a flyer offering crib notes on who to vote for in the upcoming election. It seems that if I followed their suggestions, we'd be ruled by a 'pro-education ticket.' It had several ethnically diverse candidate's names on it, but they all had one thing in common, which was that their personas were followed by a letter 'D' in the column. In the words of the old Billy Bragg song, my union has a bad case of 'socialism of the heart.' It turned out to be the one mailing that I kept. I went to the bureau, took out a thick black marker and wrote, 'F--- You' over their recommendations and then attached it to the refrigerator door, where it has hung since.

Although I tell my story to all who will listen, I acknowledge the futility of the struggle, as I have no proof that the $480 that they extort from me each year does not somehow find its way to the politicians. Yet, I can take pride in the fact that if a couple million other members did the same thing I did, we'd slowly sink the maniacal socialist barges that our teachers unions.

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Bernard Chapin is a writer from Chicago.