I have been a public school teacher for the past 30 years who has rallied for right to work legislation for the better part of my career.
For those unfamiliar with the term, right to work means that a public employee cannot be compelled to join the union – state, local or national – or mandated to pay union dues. I could not understand why I had to pay 85 percent of the dues regardless of whether I joined or not. It felt so un-American.
One of my main objections to compulsory membership was that for a professional who worked hard and followed the rules, there was no need for union representation. When my district truly did need help, we ended up striking – twice – the union was powerless.
Moreover, I objected to the many political ads the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) used my dues to purchase, some of which advocated for candidates and policies I did not support and attacked candidates I did.
I tried reaching out to the NJEA to ask them to meet its membership halfway, reduce the dues, stop the lobbying and protect our benefits, but there was no response.
Well, the U.S. Supreme Court got it right in the Janus decision earlier this summer when it concluded that compulsory union dues unconstitutionally rob a person of his/her First Amendment right to free speech.
Now it is the law of the land that public employees must affirmatively opt in to dues paying union membership, thereby waiving their free speech rights. Now, my fellow educators and I have a choice in deciding whether or not to fund the NJEA’s agenda.
I would like to note, however, one unfortunate piece of collateral damage. That is the Monmouth County Education Association which, all these years, has used their tiny slice of the union dues pie to educate and empower their membership through in-service training, terrific workshops and community outreach programs.
The Monmouth County Education Association truly used their meager dues to do good for their members, not to advance a political agenda and enrich their leadership. I am sorry they will suffer, but I suspect they will continue to do good with what they receive, as they always have.