This article is part of Free to Teach’s “Knowing Your Rights and Union Alternatives” booklet, which is available in its entirety here.
Since the Janus v. AFSCME ruling in June 2018, many public school teachers have asked us what their daily life would be like if they resigned from the teachers’ union. Here are three important things to note:
1. Under current state law, your union is still required to represent you.Under the Public Employe Relations Act and the Public School Code, a teachers’ union such as the PSEA or AFT-PA is the “exclusive bargaining representative” of all teachers in a district or public education workplace. That means the union is the only official mediator on labor contract issues for all workers in a bargaining unit that it represents. Before Janus, that included agency fee payers, who were non-members of the union. Now, because no non-member is required to pay a fee, it simply includes all teachers, union and non-union alike. The union remains your representative and legally cannot discriminate against you on the basis of your status as a nonmember.
2. You can join a professional teachers’ group such as the Association of American Educators (AAE).Organizations such as AAE are expanding their job protection services following the Janus ruling. For example, currently, a teacher who is called in by an administrator for an investigatory or potentially disciplinary meeting may contact AAE for legal advice. By Spring 2019, AAE was aiming to ramp up support so that any teacher may be able to have an AAE attorney present during such meetings via telephone conference call and for further consultation. However, your collective bargaining agreement may prohibit the presence of an outside attorney—i.e., one not associated with the school district union, or “exclusive bargaining representative.” Check your contract.
3. If you are not satisfied with your union representation, you and other teachers could change it.School districts that have local, independent unions unconnected with the NEA or AFT reproduce all the same services of Free to Teach 21 the major unions without the middleman or large overhead costs. For example, the Roscommon Teachers’ Association in Michigan cut ties with the NEA in 2012, and was promptly able to reduce union dues from $980 to $600 per teacher, per year. The union uses its dues to keep a labor attorney on retainer to handle workplace issues and grievances. Teachers who resign from the PSEA or AFT-PA can opt to reconstitute as a local-only union and recreate the same kind of collective services. Without a local-only union, teachers may opt to pool their money and hire their own labor attorney for day-to-day representation, but your collective bargaining agreement may prohibit such an avenue.