As anyone who’s been a public school teacher can tell you, plenty of false messages circulate about union membership: whether it’s required, why it exists, and whom it benefits (or harms). On most issues, there are two stories: the one the PSEA or AFT-PA want you to believe, and the truth.
Free to Teach wants you to know what’s up. Over the next couple of weeks, we will be rolling out a six-day blog series called, “6 Myths Teachers’ Unions Don’t Want You to Question.” Today we will tackle Myth #1—Nobody can force you to join a union. While technically true, the statement hides a world of coercion employees feel regarding union membership.
It’s true that after the Janus v. AFSCME decision, no teacher or public education worker can be forced to pay fair share fees. However, unionization is still coercive in a number of ways. For example, members who are not happy with their union and want to resign are often trapped for years because of narrow resignation windows, officially known and legally sanctioned in state law as “maintenance of membership.” (Literally, a “MOM”).
Missing these resignation windows affects countless teachers in Pennsylvania each year—educators like Cheri, who was denied the right to leave the union when she wished. In fact, this is such an enduring First Amendment issue, it is the subject of a January 2019 federal court case brought by Francisco Molina, a former social services aide at the Lehigh County Office of Children and Youth. He further alleges that union representatives used pressure, intimidation, and harassment in his workplace.
In fact, PSEA fear tactics and lack of knowledge among new teachers results in many becoming union members out of anxiety about the unknown. As Cheri noted in her recent story for Free to Teach: “On my first day, my union rep handed me a membership packet and simply told me to sign the last page and return it to her. In our area, joining the union was simply what you did—only one or two teachers in the whole district were not members. So even with my doubts, I thought it was better to join than not join.”
That’s why Free to Teach is here to educate, equip, and empower any teacher who doesn’t want union membership. For example, while most PSEA contracts have MOM clauses, the union often does not enforce them for teachers who want to leave outside the designated window. Please contact us for help if you’re trying to resign. We’ll arm you with knowledge and support so you don’t have to worry about bully tactics.