NEA Union Lawyers, Meet the NEA Representative Assembly

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Any educator, parent, or other concerned citizen who wants to know where officers of the National Education Association (NEA) teacher union and its thousands of local and statewide affiliates stand on how employees of K-12 public schools ought to be compensated can learn a great deal by looking at the NEA’s resolutions and other policy documents.  And NEA resolutions going back many years as well as the 2014-2015 resolutions, the latest set that are currently available on the union web site, make it absolutely plain that the union hierarchy and union negotiators favor, with regard to a number of subsets of teachers, lower compensation for the employees they purport to represent than school executives might well be inclined to furnish if they had a free hand.

For example, one sentence in Section F-9 of the 2014-2015 resolutions that was first approved in 2000 reads, in full:

The [National Education] Association opposes providing additional compensation to attract and/or retain education employees in hard-to-recruit positions.

What this means in practice is that if a school district is having a hard time finding a qualified individual to teach special ed, English as a Second Language, Physics, Chemistry or Calculus, for example, and wishes to offer a salary that is higher than the NEA union-negotiated rate in order to persuade someone who can do the job well to accept it, the teacher union brass will oppose the “additional compensation.”

As a practical matter, what this means is that many hard-to-recruit positions in NEA union boss-controlled K-12 public schools either go unfilled for long periods of time, or end up being filled by someone who lacks the knowledge base to perform the job well.

Several more examples of uncompromising NEA-boss opposition to higher pay for particular classes of educators could be cited, but one more sentence from Section F-9 will suffice to establish the point here:

The [National Education] Association further believes that performance pay schedules, such as merit pay or any other system of compensation based on an evaluation of an education employee’s performance, are inappropriate.

Without a doubt, a substantial share of the hundreds of thousands of teachers nationwide who are forced under state law to bankroll NEA-affiliated local and state unions and the NEA itself as a condition of employment believe correctly that they would benefit economically from a merit-based compensation policy. But the union brass unabashedly opposes such policies.

If the stance of NEA union officials in opposition to higher compensation for many teachers is plain from Sections F-8, F-9, and F-10 of the union’s published resolutions, why are union lawyer Jeremiah Collins and his legal team in Rebecca Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association (CTA) pretending that the NEA and the California Teachers Association, by far its largest affiliate, favor more pay for teachers in all cases?

The plaintiffs in Friedrichs are teachers who do not belong to the CTA union, do not agree with the positions it takes in acting as K-12 employees’ monopoly-bargaining agent, and do not believe it is permissible under the First Amendment for the state of California to force them to pay $600 a year or more in “agency” fees to CTA, NEA, and local teacher union officials in order to continue educating children.

Just over a year ago, Justice Sam Alito’s opinion for a 5-4 majority in Harris v. Quinn, a case argued and won by National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation attorneys, explained in some detail why Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, the 1977 High Court decision that originally upheld the constitutionality of forced union fees in the public sector, is “questionable.”  Harris itself was decided on other grounds and therefore left Abood standing, but based on this precedent it seems the plaintiffs in Friedrichs, who are being represented by attorneys with the Center for Individual Rights, have a good chance of success.  In late June, the Supreme Court agreed to hear their case in its next term.

In a brief issued early this year in which they tried unsuccessfully to dissuade the High Court from taking up Friedrichs, Collins and his team insisted that the forced-fee regime to which the plaintiffs object “is simply a requirement that a nonmember teacher who receives the benefit of additional compensation as a result of the unions’ efforts in collective bargaining must pay a share of the unions’ costs in negotiating these improvements . . . .”  (A report on the Friedrichs case appearing in USA Today quoted this passage from the CTA/NEA brief.  See the link below.)

But as we have just seen, educators who are well-qualified to teach in subject areas for which there are shortages and educators who school boards believe are performing well-above average, regardless of the age-level of their students or the subject they teach, often receive lower, rather than higher, compensation as a result of “unions’ efforts in collective bargaining.”

Do Jeremiah Collins et al really hope to sway the Supreme Court to uphold Abood by making a legal argument based on fantasy, rather than facts?  Only future respondents’ briefs in Friedrichs and the oral arguments occurring in the High Court’s 2015-2016 term can settle that question.

National Education Association teacher union bosses unabashedly oppose higher pay for a number of categories of teachers. Yet union lawyer Jeremiah Collins and the rest of the NEA legal team arguing a key case that will soon be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court are pretending the opposite is true. Image: Bredhoff & Kaiser, PLLC

Supreme Court to hear case threatening public employee unions

USA TODAYJun 30, 2015