Taxpayers: The Unions’ Dues Collector


January 27, 2016 5:09PM

In 2011, Beacon joined the fight to repeal mandatory collective bargaining by government education unions. Prior to that time, unions could force local school boards to recognize their authority to negotiate exclusively on behalf of teachers, preventing other organizations from even sitting down at the table.

That all changed with the Professional Educators Collaborative Conferencing Act. Now, any number of organizations, representing as little as 15% of teachers in a district, can pull up a chair to the negotiating table. This empowers teachers with options and gives them a greater voice.

One key component of the Collaborative Conferencing Act was to stop unions from using teachers’ hard-earned dues money to fund political causes with which they disagree. A solid chunk of the average teachers’ $600-plus annual dues had funded political candidates and radical policy positions, including a much-loathed state income tax.

While the Collaborative Conferencing Act sought to ban the use of teachers’ automatically deducted dues on political activity, the unions have found loopholes, as unions are known to do. The National Education Association, for example, has reportedly funneled more than $12 million in dues from hardworking teachers to its Super PAC.

We at Beacon believe teachers—and anyone for that matter—have a right to join a union. But they also have a right not to fund political speech with which they disagree. And the same is true for Tennessee taxpayers. That’s why the new Fair Access to Collection of Teacher Support (FACTS) Act is important. The bill recently passed the state Senate and is slated for discussion in the House education committee next week.

The FACTS Act would get local governments out of the business of collecting dues for unions through automatic payroll deductions. Does government collect your cable bill or car payment and remit it to Comcast or Nissan? Of course it doesn’t. Then it shouldn’t be spending taxpayer money on the expensive task of withholding teachers’ dues from their paychecks and remitting it to the union. Especially when those unions turn around and use that money to push for higher taxes and more wasteful spending.

Experts tell me that collecting subscriptions can cost companies an average of 3-5% of the subscription. Given that, it’s safe to say that taxpayers are on the hook for upwards of $750,000 a year when it comes to collecting union dues from teachers.

And even though there are now numerous professional associations for teachers to join, many local school districts pick and choose which can and can’t benefit from payroll deduction. If we are going to have payroll deduction, it better apply across the board. And since it doesn’t, this arbitrary picking of winners and losers represents yet another reason to eliminate the practice.

For years, the unions have called the shots on Capitol Hill when it comes to education in our state. And taxpayers have helped grease the skids by collecting their dues for them. It’s high time the union was cut off from taxpayer money and left to collect its own dues, with its own dime.