05 November 2007

Giving the Union Their Dues

As an agency fees payer, I'm entitled by law to information about The Union that its own members do not receive. Every year, I get an accounting of expenses and the opportunity to object to how my money was spent. Shall we see what this year's packet has in store?

Inflows:
  • $220,629.46 in dues (paid for on the backs of and out of the paychecks of 688 teachers)
  • $1571.18 interest on checking account
  • $8363.35 in "miscellaneous revenue" (no explanation given, but possibly bullied from teachers in the form of taking their lunch money)
  • $497.00 for the "Spring Function" (they made money on a party that cost them $5635.57)
I won't list all of the outflows---it's a long list, but let's have a look at some of them:
  • $80,755.56 President's salary, benefits, summer stipend, and mileage
  • $8,733.08 for office hospitality and parties (not including the $1700 stipend for the social coordinator)
  • $11,851.59 for going to conferences
  • $32,147.48 for 29 different stipends, including negotiators, scribes, and the overpaid social coordinator
  • $12,882.14 for substitutes for members who wanted a day off
So far, we're up to $146,369. 85---not including the rent for the office, supplies, and other sundries...plus the net assets reported of $71,820 (including carryover from the previous year).

That's right, nearly $72K is sitting in the local Union's bank account. Money that came out of my paycheck and that of every other teacher. Money that could have been used to feed families, buy shoes for children, pay bills, and so on. Thanks, guys, for looking out for us.

The Union is saying that 94% of their expenses are chargeable to me. Would anyone like to have a look at the list above and explain how any of this (let alone 94%) had a direct impact on my working environment? I paid for the Union Prez and the Little Dictator to fly to California. I pay for their copies, but don't get their newsletter. I pay for their meetings, but aren't allowed to attend. I pay for the prez's mileage, but I don't ride in her car. I pay for other teachers to be away from their jobs, but I'm not eligible to use the service. And before anyone jumps on the "but you're just a fees payer" bandwagon, let me say up front that as a non-member, the only stated services I am not eligible for are legal and insurance related, can't be a rep, credit card offers, and other "discount buying."

Do you know how your Union dues are spent? What percentage would you say actually goes toward improving your personal workplace?

15 comments:

Clix said...

Okay, I really hate sounding stupid, but... how is it that you pay dues and are not a member?!

The Science Goddess said...

This is not a "Right to Work" state---or, if you prefer, it is a "Closed Shop." (So much for one's constitutional right to freely assemble.)

If you take a job within the public school system, you must pay union dues. Those of us who are "fees payers" get a partial rebate each year representing the percentage of "non-union activities" in which the union engaged.

Ms. W said...

I agree that some of those things the fees are going to aren't fair. And it disappoints me. There are some flaws to teacher unions, I definitely realize this. And considering you have to pay dues as a non-member, well, that's unfortunate.

I don't think you're getting the whole picture since you aren't going to the union meetings. It is in meetings where things are discussed and proposals are brought up on how to improve work environments (should that be an issue of concern). Perhaps you should ask someone who is a member to let you in on what goes on in meetings and if they think their money is being well spent.

To me, unions are kinda at a standstill in how effective they can be these days. Doesn't matter what union you are talking about... getting the corporations you work for to agree to better pay and benefits has been such a struggle since the 90's if not earlier.

It's good that you can point out the flaws in union spending for your district (I think a lot of members would be interested in the information you have), but unless you have all the information regarding union functions, you can't really ask what the union is doing to improve your working conditions.

InkMiser said...

Well, it's a good thing you're in the union. Otherwise, you could be abused by your greedy employer, the one who makes huge profits off of your labor. The one who . . . Wait, you're a school teacher. You work for the public. No one profits (in the accounting sense of the word). There is not really a you and us. We're on the same side. Why do public school teachers, or any other government employer, need a union, again? Oh yeah, the parties, er . . . social functions.

Shelley said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Science Goddess said...

Shelley---trust me on this one. A teacher is better off going it alone. I'm not at liberty to say anything at the present time, but I have legal action pending against my district...and I promise you that it is a direct result of Union interference in my workplace. If there was no Union pulling puppet strings, this district would be far better off. I know that might not be true for all districts.

Clix said...

And it isn't necessarily "union or alone." When I have a concern, I bring it up to my department head. The English department at my school is fantastic. When we present something to the administration, they listen to us - not because we are A Union and they are required to, but because they need us, and as a result, they want to keep us happy.

SG - if I only got back 4% and they said that was all that didn't benefit me, I might pay the 4% and go to meetings and raise hell.

Anonymous said...

(sorry, just realized that my comment was linked to my personal blog, not my teaching one!)

Inkmiser, this about it this way... if problems do arise, and things aren't as fair as they should be, do you think a teacher would be better off alone going against the school district/school administrator or with some support from a teacher's union?

If local governments and school districts had it their way, teachers would get paid even less than they do now. If teachers aren't getting paid a fair amount for the amount of work they put in, you really think people are going to go into the teaching profession... even if they have all the passion in the world? Teachers have to pay the bills and support their families, too. If teaching isn't going to allow them to do that, it's not going to be worth it after a point.

While the school district may not "profit" from our labor, they still control teacher salaries.

- "Shelley"

The Science Goddess said...

Clix,

I've thought about that---and there are many here who would cheer me on.

At this time, I think I will forego that option for another. I have the choice to object to as much as 100% of my dues. If I do that, then the "leadership" has to sit in a room with me and a mediator and justify every penny. That would be far more interesting.

InkMiser said...

Anonymous - Read Chix, above. If there is a problem, you don't need a union to address it. Further, there are other ways to ensure that teachers - who, by the way, are by far the most important employees of any district, and do not, in many cases, get compensated as they should - have a protected outlet through which to voice concerns. You don't need a union to do this, you simply need another mechanism. That can be done by contract, employee manual, etc. If you go to work for a district that does not have a good procedure in place, you take the risk of not having your voice heard. Then again, the residents of that district get what they deserve in electing a school board which is so short-sighted that they don't implement such constructive policies. Don't fall into the trap that just because we've addressed such issues through unions in the past, that we cannot now address them through some other method.

If the district wants to lower pay and benefits, and you don't want to accept it, leave. The market will work. The district will have to improve compensation to get decent teachers, or make due with poor ones. One huge problem that we have is that poor teachers are often protected by the union. Whereas overall teacher quality could be improved by getting rid of under-performing teachers, a district is often unable to do so because of collective bargaining constraints.

As I said before, teachers should be well- and fairly compensated. This discussion is different from the more general discussion of the priority of education in our society. Not necessarily separate from, but different from.

Ms. W said...

Inkmiser,

Coming from a big union family it's hard for me to accept that not being in a union is just as good as being in one. That being said, I do share your concern for the system that allows bad teachers to remain at a school because of union contracts. I don't know how that can be fixed... students definitely aren't benefiting from a teacher that doesn't want to improve their teaching and gets away with giving their students crossword puzzles and letting them watch semi-related videos every other day. It's not fair for the students and those teachers shouldn't be in the profession.

How do you remedy it? Do you base pay on performance? Teacher performance or student test scores? How do we get rid of those teachers that are abusing the system?

The Science Goddess said...

Do you see doctors and lawyers out picketing about unfair work conditions?

If teachers are truly professional, then why use blue collar tactics? It certainly doesn't add up to respect in the eyes of the public (which pays our salaries).

It is admirable that previous unions were able to negotiate the kinds of benefits in place, but it is long past time that teachers move on to what's next: being professionals.

Clix said...

Ih, I dunno. Doctors and lawyers don't gripe about unfair work conditions because (mostly) they don't have to. They provide much-needed services for the folks who get billed, and they charge accordingly. Teachers, on the other hand, provide needed services to folks OTHER than the ones who get billed - and they get paid accordingly!

People are selfish. The less direct the benefit, the less we're willing to shell out for it.

The Science Goddess said...

I can think of plenty of doctors who are unhappy with their working conditions. The job just isn't what people think it is---but I do agree that we all can be a bit selfish.

What's in it for me? That's the question I'm still asking myself about The Union. Why should I pay to be part of an organization which reflect none of my values as a professional educator?

InkMiser said...

How do you maintain quality control over such an intangible as teaching proficiency? If any of us had the answer to that one, we'd be set. I do not think that one, or even a few, benchmarks can do the job. As I said, good teaching is very much an intangible. I do think that basing pay on performance is part of the it. I do think test scores are aprt of it. The fact is that many factors should be considered.

I think the parent's would be an excellent source of information about how effective a teacher is. Unfortunately, that only works to the extent that the parents (a) care/pay attention, (b) have the ability to make value judgments about a teachers abilities, (c) can communicate those judgments, and, most importantly, (d) have an effective mechanism to communicate their concerns, as well as praise.

Let's face it. In many districts, the parents are the biggest problem. My school district, however, is in an upper-middle class area, with a highly educated population. These parents are very engaged in their children's education.

That said, the "decision-makers," whoever they are, need to be careful in using that feedback in the decision -making process. It should be only one part of the formula.

Let me ask a question of the professional educators. How often do you run into administrators, be they principals, or superintendents or whoever, who do not have significant classroom experience? My kids' elementary school principal is new, and has soured the atmosphere through her desire to run the school her way, which has involved many changes to things put in place by her very popular, experienced, spectacular, and now-retired, predecessor. But I don't think she has spent that much time in a classroom. Do such people really know what to look for?