Every week, NPRI President Andy Matthews writes a column for NPRI's week-in-review email. If you are not getting our emails, which contain our latest commentaries and news stories, you can sign up here to receive them.
I’ve had unions on the brain quite a bit lately, and understandably so.
For starters, Wednesday marked the beginning of the teacher union opt-out period for most of Nevada’s counties. From July 1-15, public school teachers belonging to Nevada State Education Association affiliates can choose to save hundreds of dollars a year (currently taken from them in the form of union dues) by walking away from their union.
As you’re probably aware, for the past several years we at NPRI have been working to let teachers know that they have this right. Many make the mistake of assuming that they have to belong to the union in order to teach in Nevada. The truth is that Nevada is a right-to-work state, which means no such requirement exists. And we’re making sure teachers know it.
In recent days, we started reaching out to teachers to alert them that the opt-out window is upon us. Most of the response, as usual, has been positive. But there are of course those few union fans who aren’t quite as grateful to hear from us.
In previous years, I’ve had the pleasure of hearing from some of the latter, who haven’t been shy about directing their fury toward my email inbox. Thankfully, this year it’s NPRI’s Chantal Lovell who’s bearing the brunt of the anger, though she’s shared a few of her favorite responses with me ─ most of which are not suitable for print in this space. But this one pretty much summed it up (and yes, the ALL CAPS were in the original):
ALL YOU ARE DOING IS TRYING TO BREAK UP UNIONS, NOT TRYING TO HELP TEACHERS!
What’s interesting, of course, is that those who are lashing out at us for informing teachers of their rights are, in a sense, proving our point. They personally like the union, and they’re exercising their choice to remain in it. No one, not even NPRI, is trying to stop them. And they are perfectly free to ignore our message.
But what about their colleagues who don’t share their affinity for union membership? Shouldn’t they be trusted to make their own decision as well? We certainly think so, and it’s telling that these union backers, who are perfectly within their right to remain in the union, are afraid of letting their co-workers know they have that choice.
There was some other interesting union-related news this week, from outside of Nevada’s borders. We Nevadans are fortunate to live in a right-to-work state, but not everyone can say the same, and that includes the neighboring state of California.
But the U.S. Supreme Court recently agreed to take up a case, which originated in the Golden State, that could deal a serious blow to the coercive powers that public-sector unions still enjoy in many places. The L.A. Times reports that:
At issue is the court’s 1977 precedent in Abood vs. Detroit Board of Education, which today allows government worker unions in California and 20 other states to collect “fair share” fees to cover the costs of collective bargaining, even from employees who do not join or support the union.
Though the high court has said workers cannot be required to pay for a union’s political activities, it has concluded that they should contribute something toward a union’s cost of negotiating better wages and benefits for everyone.
The lead plaintiff in the case is Rebecca Friedrichs, a teacher in Orange County who along with a group of her colleagues is challenging the assessment of union fees against non-union members. Should she prevail, it would mark a huge victory for worker freedom that will be felt from coast to coast.
We’ll be watching this story closely, naturally, and here’s hoping that the day will soon arrive when workers nationwide are able to exercise the same rights as here in Nevada.
And in the meantime, we’ll continue to make sure that those who are in Nevada and want to leave their union have the information they need to do exactly that.
Thanks for reading, and have a great weekend.
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