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Why I joined the union

Original post made by teacher, Amador Valley High School, on Mar 16, 2010

I was just reading another thread were someone stated to Patricia Collins that her sister is part of the problem because she is a member of CTA and it got me thinking. What would most people do in this situation:

You are a new teacher and you are told that whether or not you opt in to the union, the union dues will be subtracted from your paycheck (you can opt to donate this money to the Red Cross if you want, but you can't keep it)

You don't agree with all the union politics, but you know that there is a certain liability involved in teaching. As you talk with more experienced teachers, you learn that even the very best, most professional ones have been threatened with a lawsuit or a formal complaint at some point in their career.

You can look for "malpractice" insurance privately, but it's not commonly sold to teachers, is expensive... and you'd be paying for that AND union dues.

If you join the union, you get protection from potential lawsuits.

This is why I joined the union. I am not particularly political, but I'm a realist. If I'm paying for the service anyway I might as well join and get the benefits. I think most teachers in APT/CTA join for the same reason. Most of us just want to do our jobs and don't have a big agenda to milk the state budget with our gigantic pensions or bankrupt the district with our greedy step and column raises, I think most people in the private sector would make the same choice if they were given the same options.

Comments (36)

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Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Mar 16, 2010 at 8:57 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

Did you know that there are non-union based associations that you can become a member of and they have such insurance coverage for members (for example: Web Link)?

The point is that there are choices. You don't need to join a union to get such protection. The refund you're entitled to annually for money not used in bargaining on your behalf as a non-union employee can pay for membership in such a professional association.


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Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Mar 16, 2010 at 9:04 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

Here's the website with that information created by some California teachers: Web Link


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Posted by teacher
a resident of Amador Valley High School
on Mar 16, 2010 at 9:05 pm

The refund you're entitled to annually for money not used in bargaining on your behalf as a non-union employee.


Never heard of this. I was told I had to pay the dues no matter what. How does one acquire this refund??


Very interesting website!! I really don't think very many teachers know this is an option. It would really have to be cost-effective, though.


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Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Mar 16, 2010 at 9:13 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

"It would really have to be cost-effective, though"

That's up to you to decide what is right for your situation.


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Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Mar 16, 2010 at 9:14 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

BTW, I agreed with what Patricia Collins wrote. That's why school board members have to be held accountable.


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Posted by resident
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 17, 2010 at 12:07 am

I don't disagree that many would take the same option in the private sector, if such an offer existed. The difference is that when our "companies" fail, we don't have the option of asking for a new tax assessment to keep the status quo among the work force. But the tide has clearly turned on this issue, and it is highly unlikely that a new tax will make it to the books in this town without much more significant and permanent staff salary and benefit reductions, as well as suspension of any pay increases (regardless of how they are titled) for the duration of the assessment. I believe that there is little chance of this coming to pass, as the various unions will continue to win the battle while collectively losing the war. Thus the union members that survive will continue to collect a greater share of a diminishing total.

I don't hold animosity for any group of public employees, but I do strongly feel that budget variances and adjustments must be dealt with on the spending side. Tax increases are just not acceptable any longer. We have taxed ourselves effectively "out of business". And I agree with others that the various public pension systems range from mildly to ridiculously outrageous. There will clearly be reform in these areas. The public outcry is far too consistent and wide spread for any other outcome to be logical or feasible.


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Posted by Rat Turd
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 17, 2010 at 6:45 am

Patricia Collins said a few things which I believe meant a lot. She said something which has been glossed over and that is that the school board is not held accountable for their terrible negotiating selections and the contracts they ratify. The board seems to be happy to just let the teachers take the beating for agreements that the board agreed to. Clearly poor leadership and by that I mean all of them. We keep thinking that we have to wait for the next election but we don't. We can ask for their resignations and their resignations now.


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Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Mar 17, 2010 at 6:58 am

The problem is, it isn't an offer. Unions take your money, at least some portion, even if you opt out. Teachers, anyone really, should be given the freedom of choice: join us, join something else, join nothing.

I too think change is coming, but for me it isn't about concessions, it's about tenure and better/merit pay, expectations and outcomes for evaluations and the ability to remove under performers, and retiring at 55 or 58 and getting lifetime benefits until 65. I've talked a lot about issues that come back to sustainability. The current system and pensions are no longer sustainable.


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Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Mar 17, 2010 at 8:19 am

Stacey is a registered user.

Kathleen,

That CTEN website explains the so-called agency fee. Web Link

They make it incumbent upon non-union members of a bargaining unit to apply for a refund annually: you have to do the work if you want your money, isn't it easier to just leave the money with us?

That website also gives information on staying in a union and participation options.


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Posted by teacher 2
a resident of Birdland
on Mar 17, 2010 at 9:00 am

I joined the union for the same reasons stated by AV teacher above, as well as another reason. It's analogous to the reason why I'm a Republican (yes, some of us are)even though I'd prefer to be an Independent: I know an Independent is not going to win the presidential election, and I want to have a say in who does. If I'm not a registered Republican, I can't vote in the presidential primaries. If I'm not in the union, I couldn't have voted on the concessions and wouldn't have had a say (not that I had much of a say anyway) in the process.


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Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Mar 17, 2010 at 9:21 am

Stacey is a registered user.

That's true. Unions take away your right to negotiate your own employment contract.


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Posted by sister
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 17, 2010 at 10:12 am

My sister won't join the union..They tell her they won't defend her in suits....her So Cal DISTRICT provides those protections anyway ! Check your disctrict. No matter, the union actually prevents quality education. Otherwise they'd help us get ride of
BAD teachers....but they defend &rehabilitate them !


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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 17, 2010 at 11:18 am

To the argument about the school board being accountable, one of the reasons we are in the condition we are in is the school board is not actively involved in the negotiations (and I would argue in just about anything). The superintendent and upper management are controlling everything since the board allows them to. The board should take control of the district instead of just nodding their heads to that the superintendent says. I have talked with school board members in our district and they all said that they are not involved in the negotiations. They give a little bit of direction but the superintendent pretty much says "trust us, we are the professionals." The board members are given status updates on the negotiation and are asked for comments when something that has come up that has not been discussed before. By the time it gets to a public hearing,it is a formality to ratify what the superintendent and staff negotiated. If any board members questions things at this point they are told that "us 'professionals' worked real hard to get to this point and we have to all look like we are in unison to the public so don't ask questions in the public hearing."


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Posted by Rat Turd
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 17, 2010 at 1:21 pm



I bet that if a few of the board members were sued personally they would think twice about just leaving it up to the professionals. It is all about accountability and right now it just seems that being on the school board is a chance to play the popular person or say hey look at me. They need to be held accountable otherwise just go without them and hire a business manager to direct the superintendent. It is crazy and they just spend money.......why? because it is not their money at risk but rather ours.


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Posted by Sister
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 17, 2010 at 3:57 pm

Sort of like the UNION at CAstlewoodCC that took away the rights of members to settle with the club. Again, the Mayor & Council plans to attack & meddle in private affairs and slap the hands of a private club,.... but not attack the unions !!! Why not hammer the union and allow the members to be a 'free people' isn't that American ?
The union CAUSED the split between employer & employees and wouldn't allow them to get together. The council's SPIN is disgusting. Tip Toe around the union. Of course I don't care WHO caused what. Private employer....do as you want ! !


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Posted by Legal?
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 17, 2010 at 3:59 pm

"That's true. Unions take away your right to negotiate your own employment contract."

Many hospials and doctors right now give you a paper saying you give up your right to an attorney, and agree to arbitration instead, and they make it sound like you have no option but to sign it.

We were given that paper and were told we absolutely had to sign it. We said not and we would contact our attorney to see about the legality of that. Not even five minutes went by and we were told that it was okay not to sign, that it was optional. I wonder how many people do sign it?

I wonder how many teachers blindly believe they have to be a part of the union? Legally speaking, it does not sound right.


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Posted by Legal?
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 17, 2010 at 4:03 pm

Making some corrections/additions to my post above:

"That's true. Unions take away your right to negotiate your own employment contract."

Many hospitals and doctors right now ask you to sign a paper saying you give up your right to an attorney, and agree to arbitration instead, if there is a problem, and they make it sound like you have no option but to sign it.

We were given that paper and were told we absolutely had to sign it before we could see the doctor for the first time. We said no and we would contact our attorney to see about the legality of that. Not even five minutes went by after we said that, and we were told that it was okay not to sign, that it was optional. I wonder how many people do sign it?

I wonder how many teachers blindly believe they have to be a part of the union? Legally speaking, it does not sound right. No one can force you to sign a paper you don' agree with or belong o a group you don't want to be a part of.


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Posted by teacher
a resident of Foothill High School
on Mar 17, 2010 at 4:06 pm

No one can force you to sign a paper you don' agree with or belong o a group you don't want to be a part of.

True, that's why they tell us we can opt out, but we still have to have the dues deducted from our checks regardless!


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Posted by Legal?
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 17, 2010 at 4:58 pm

"True, that's why they tell us we can opt out, but we still have to have the dues deducted from our checks regardless!"

Have you researched how legal (or not) this is?

It does not sound right. If I chose not to belong to group A and group A deducted money from my check, I would think that would be illegal.

Has any teacher looked into how legal or not this is?

All the more reason to get rid of unions. If indeed what they do is legal (essentially steal from someone's paycheck), then someone in Sacramento/Washington has passed regulations/laws that are in violation of people's rights.


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Posted by Sister
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 17, 2010 at 6:09 pm

Yes, THIS legislature, that is OWNED by the unions, says unions have the right to extort funds from workers ! ! Twisted for Americans, I know. Some people tho have prinicples and sense of right...say they can steal their money, but not their soul, and not their support. They are the ones who speak out about firing bad teachers.


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Posted by letsgo
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 17, 2010 at 7:33 pm

Technically, the unions do not get the money if you opt out of the union, but and equivalent amount MUST be donated to a charity of your choice (I think its limited to a specific list). THis money is automatically deducted. So for most teachers, its just money being deducted from their check. Would you rather have legal protection from some crazy parent or have no protection for the same price? I think we all would make the same choice.

Is it right? Not as far as I am concerned. I'm not even sure how its legal, but it has apparently passed the legality test with the courts as far as I know.

I think the biggest issue is that I have to believe (like the original poster) that a lot of teachers don't really like the things the union does or stands for (i.e. protecting the really bad teachers) but are part of it for other reasons basically because they feel there is not much of a choice. So we have the union vs the people with a large number of the teachers stuck in the middle.


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Posted by Legal?
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 17, 2010 at 8:32 pm

Letsgo: do you have the regulation name/number? Is it part of ed code? I googled it but found some websites that offered similar information to what you posted but their credibility is questionable.

Also, do you know then how we can get rid of the unions which obviously hurt kids as well as teachers?

I think it is highly unfair for teachers to have to pay even if they do not want to belong to the union.

Yes, if I were a teacher and given the regulations, I would definitely opt to be a part of the union given that I have to pay anyway. But it is morally, ethically and probably legally wrong (I am sure a good lawyer could challenge this in court and win if it is a class action lawsuit)


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Posted by letsgo
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 17, 2010 at 9:36 pm

Legal? - I'll do some digging and see what I can find.

I do agree that it is morally and ethically wrong, although, sadly I'm not sure a good lawyer can do much because it would literally take years and thousands of hours to fight with no means of compensation. I don't know too many firms that are willing to take on that kind of fight (again, reality saddens me)


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Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Mar 17, 2010 at 9:45 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

My understanding from that CTEN website is that California is one of 32 states that allow "monopoly bargaining" and that twenty of these states (DC included) force educators to pay mandatory fees. So it means that the only choices you get in California are to 1) join the union, 2) donate your fee as a conscientious/religious objector to a charity, or 3) don't join the union and annually apply for a refund of the portion of the fee that wasn't used in bargaining on your behalf that you were forced to pay.

Web Link
"However, as a result of Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, 431 U.S. 209 (1977), a lawsuit that was supported by the Foundation, educators cannot be required to do more than pay a union fee (typically called an "agency fee") that equals their share of what the union can prove is its costs of collective bargaining, contract administration, and grievance adjustment.

Except in extraordinary cases, the union's costs of collective bargaining, contract administration, and grievance adjustment do not equal the dues amount.

You have a right to object and obtain a reduction of your compulsory agency fee payments so they do not include the part of dues that is used for purposes other than collective bargaining and contract administration.

The employer and the union must establish certain procedures to safeguard your right to pay only a limited fee to the union. These safeguards include giving you:

* audited financial information about how the amount of the agency fee was calculated;
* an opportunity to challenge the amount of the agency fee before an impartial decision-maker; and,
* the right to place the contested amount of the agency fee in escrow so that the union will not be able to illegally use your money while a decision on the proper amount of the agency fee is pending.

Your right to proper safeguards is based upon Chicago Teachers Union v. Hudson, 475 U.S. 292 (1986), another lawsuit that was supported by the Foundation. "


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Posted by letsgo
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 17, 2010 at 9:46 pm

Legal - I believe most of this is covered under SB 1960. Check it out and let me/us know what you find.


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Posted by letsgo
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 17, 2010 at 9:49 pm

Sounds like it would take many many hours of paper work for a teacher to not pay a couple hundred dollars and the union will still get the teacher to pay quite a bit.


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Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Mar 17, 2010 at 9:52 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

One way to look at it is that the union, because they've been granted a monopoly bargaining status with the employer, has a legal obligation to provide representation fairly and equally to both union and non-union members of the bargaining unit.


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Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Mar 17, 2010 at 10:01 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

What I'm getting from the National Right to Work Foundation website is that both an employer and a union has to set up procedures to ensure that the agency fee is only the amount used for bargaining, contract administration, and grievance adjustment. Now the CTEN website was established by an LAUSD teacher and it is possible that the information reported there about an annual refund is how LAUSD and UTLA implemented these procedures. It sounds like it is possible to require the agency fee to be less than the dues by paycheck and any contested amount be put into an escrow fund instead of paid to the union.


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Posted by letsgo
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 17, 2010 at 10:12 pm

Stacey - Thanks for the info.

From what I see, it seems like its a pain in the *** for a teacher not to be in the union - which I guess is most beneficial for the union.


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Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Mar 17, 2010 at 10:17 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

And for those that don't really know me, I know that one can interpret my activity on this thread as encouraging people to leave their union. My only interest here is in the dissemination of information.


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Posted by letsgo
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 17, 2010 at 10:18 pm

I guess the more I think about this, the more upset I get.

I just think that while most teachers do want some sort of group to help fight for their rights, it seems that the current union (CTA) only fights for the rights of the CTA employees. Obviously, it make more sens for the union to keep more people employed at higher wages because that means more money for the union. Are they really out to protect education and the teachers or to protect their own union jobs? That is probably where the biggest disconnect is...the public sees the entity that only wants to protect itself, while many teachers believe that the union really has their interest in mind.

The union is just out for the union.


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Posted by Sister
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 17, 2010 at 11:32 pm

Listening to the assorted TV ads from the CTA, you might THINK they're for the students ! Wrong ! They also campaign for political candidates, campaign against political candidates, for and against
political issues!.


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Posted by Jerry
a resident of Oak Hill
on Mar 18, 2010 at 12:37 am

Several years ago a teacher in Livermore refused to join the teachers union(it was in the local papers for quite some time)...

If I remember correctly the school district attempted to fire or transfer her due to her refusal. Again, I'm thinking she sued the school district and it was determined she was only required to pay an "agency fee", as stated by Stacey...

I once worked at a large company that went from a "union shop" to an "agency shop" through negotiations. Some of the employees refused to join the union and the union was upset since the non-union employees benefited from the negotiations paid for by the union members, thus the "agency fee" was established(There could be something in the National Labor Relations Code that addresses this issue)...

If one pays an agency fee the union must protect you through the greviance procedure. You probably would be on the bottom of the list but, non the less, they are required by law to protect you...


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Posted by Legal?
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 18, 2010 at 8:00 am

After reading more about it, including the link posted by letsgo, I realized that yes, it seems legal and someone in Sacramento was responsible for it.

The bill even says that in order for teachers not to use their religious views as an excuse to get out of paying union dues, they require them to donate to a union-approved charity!

I am an independent, and tend to see the nonsense from both the democrats and the GOP.

This nonsense about unions being able to steal (yes, that is what it is) from teachers' paychecks seems like something the democrats passed.

I still believe that a good lawyer could take this and have a successful outcome as a class action lawsuit. Change does not come on its own, though, someone must start it. I believe that if every teacher in every district throughout California refused to belong to the union, that would be the end of the union - with no money to operate (all the money from teachers going to charities, the union would eventually go broke).

Unions are evil and they are definitely not here for the kids or even the teachers.

I used to pay attention to the CTA and even vote according to their recommendations, up until Arnold's reforms went on the ballot and I started learning more about the unions. Don't get me wrong, I am not a fan of Arnold, but his attempt to change a few things and the CTA lobbying against all of that really made me see that the CTA is there for itself, to keep people employed.

I think this economy has made more people aware, and hopefully the unions will be soon a part of the past. I urge everyone to write a letter to your representatives - this bill that forces teachers to be a part of the union or pay to a union-approved charity seems highly unconstitutional and needs to be gone. I wonder what the ACLU would have to say about it?


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Posted by teacher
a resident of Amador Valley High School
on Mar 18, 2010 at 8:12 am

Thanks for this dialogue. I think we've clearly flushed out why teachers join the union, and it's not the reasons most people think.

I just want to say again that most of us DO NOT WANT to be fighting with the community over the seniority system and how the union protects bad teachers, etc. We just want a reasonable wage for what we do and we want to be given the tools and support we need to do our jobs. No more, no less. Many of us are just as frustrated with the current system as you are!


As a side note, one other injustice in this system is how teachers are prevented from taking their experience and skills and offering them to the highest bidder in a competitive market. Every district has a different set of rules for how many years of your experience they will count from you when you transfer in from another district. Therefore, teachers know that after a certain number of years (usually 5-7), they can't go anywhere else without taking a pay cut due to a drop in Step. Shouldn't teachers have the same freedom that people in the private sector do to seek out the best possible job opportunities their qualifications can get them? It's not the biggest problem in the system, but it's another one on the pile.


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Posted by Arroyo
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 18, 2010 at 11:22 am

As a union employer for over forty years, I know at least two things;

Unions do not negotiate, they only know how to dictate.

Unions breed mediocrity in work performance by protecting the less skilled, while demoralizing the better skilled and those with a more honorable work ethic......

The deck has been stacked in favor of the unions due to the large campaign contributions they make. One only needs to look at this charade in Sacramento that is commonly referred to as our State Legislature.


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