21 Jun 2021
7 May 2021

Foundation President Discusses How Teacher Union Bosses Influence the Government to the Detriment of Teachers and Students

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National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation President Mark Mix recently participated in a Philanthropy Roundtable panel discussion titled “Ask The Experts: Teacher Appreciation Week? How Teachers Unions Got in the Way.”

In response to a question about how teacher union officials are influencing school reopening decisions, he noted that union bosses’ power stems from their government-granted monopoly bargaining privileges:

“At its core union monopoly bargaining (also called ‘exclusive representation’) in the government sector is inherently anti-democratic because it forces elected officials to “negotiate” with union bosses over public policy, including how government schools are run. That has always been true, but the response to COVID from government union officials in general and teacher union officials in particular only reinforces how union officials wield their government-granted exclusive representation powers to undermine and oppose policies that are in the interest of the public, taxpayers and students.  There are examples of this across the country, but among the most egregious were sweeping demands by United Teachers Los Angeles union officials that included a wealth tax, defunding the police, Medicare for All and a moratorium on charter schools all as a condition of reopening Los Angeles public schools.”

Mix describes how organizations like the National Right to Work Foundation can counter union bosses’ undue influence:

“One key way to push back is to remind the public that despite the claims of union bosses like [Randi] Weingarten, many teachers oppose what union officials do in their name. Teacher union efforts to undermine the Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court precedent in particular show how union officials put their own power and influence ahead of those they claim to ‘represent,’ often in violation of the First Amendment.”

Mix cites two Foundation cases that illustrate this point:

“Two ongoing National Right to Work Foundation Janus enforcement cases for teachers against the Los Angeles and Chicago teacher unions were brought by teachers who originally sought to cut off union financial support when they rebuffed union strike demands that they felt were not in the best interests of their students.”

Ifeoma Nkemdi, one of the Chicago teachers who sued the Chicago Teachers Union for restricting her right to cut off union dues, described the union bullying she faced in an interview with the Foundation:

As long as union bosses have monopoly bargaining powers, Mix explains, teacher union officials will continue to undermine efforts to do what is best for students:

“The ultimate solution is to end government monopoly bargaining, either through the courts because it violates the First Amendment protections for free speech and freedom of association for teachers forced under unwanted union monopoly ‘representation,’ or by state legislators who see the detrimental impact of granting one special interest group such unique powers that let them effectively veto the will of the voters’ elected representatives. Currently in many states teacher unions are not granted such powers, and it doesn’t mean teacher unions don’t exist, simply that their role is as a voluntary association that can lobby for the interests of its members, no different from any other interest group. That is the proper role for teacher unions because, among other reasons, the education of future generations shouldn’t be a subject of bargaining negotiations with teacher union bosses. ”

Read the entire discussion here.

28 Feb 2021
30 Dec 2020
19 Oct 2020

Video: Chicago Teacher Stands Up to Union Bullying

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Ifeoma Nkemdi teaches second grade at Newberry Math and Science Academy in Chicago. She exercised her right to opt out of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) and continue teaching her students during a CTU strike in 2019.

Union agitators berated Nkemdi for returning to her classroom and confronted her as she entered the school. In the video below, Nkemdi says “They specifically waited for me. They were supposed to be in front of the school. They all went to the back to wait for me to enter the school, began using their cell phones to record me and berate me and call me names.”

Nkemdi wasn’t alone. She describes how another teacher who had opted out of the union was “beat up by her coworkers.” She says union officials refused to condemn the violence, arguing “they didn’t send a letter out to the teachers saying ‘this is inappropriate behavior…this is not what we do.’ And because I didn’t see that I knew I made the right decision [to opt out].”

Nkemdi did not back down in the face of union bullies. She and fellow Chicago educator Joanne Troesch filed a class action lawsuit against the CTU and the Chicago Board of Education. The suit challenges the “escape period” created by the union, which only allows teachers to stop dues deductions in the month of August.

When Troesch and Nkemdi sent letters to the union resigning their memberships in October 2019, union officials informed them that dues deductions would continue “until September 1, 2020.” Her lawsuit says this is a clear violation of the Supreme Court’s holding in the Foundation-won Janus v. AFSCME case that dues cannot be taken from public employees without their clear and affirmative consent.

CTU officials did not inform Troesch or Nkemdi that they had the right to stop their dues payments. Troesch and Nkemdi learned about their Janus rights only after doing their own research.

At every turn, the CTU made it difficult for these school employees to exercise their rights. They were never informed of their rights,  were forced to wait almost a year for their request to end dues deductions to be met, and were subject to harassment and ridicule by union militants.

Nkemdi finds the behavior of the CTU disheartening. “I just felt it was such a dishonor to the profession of education,” she explained. “This extreme bullying because I didn’t agree…and they did it in front of students.”

You can listen to Ifeoma Nkemdi tell her story below:

1 Sep 2020
4 Jun 2020

Video Spotlight: Charter School Teacher Challenging Coercive Unionism with Foundation Legal Aid

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Chemistry teacher Dr. Kristie Chiscano shared in a newly released video about how National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys are assisting her and her fellow teachers at her school to challenge coercive union bosses.

After a career as a surgeon, Dr. Chiscano decided to become a high school teacher at Gompers Preparatory Academy (GPA), a charter school in San Diego, California. She chose GPA in part because there was no coercive union presence at the school.

But that changed when the San Diego Education Association (SDEA) union installed itself in January 2019 after conducting a coercive “Card Check” drive, depriving school employees of the right to decide for themselves whether to join the union.

In the video, Dr. Chiscano explained the situation:

“The families and the teachers were quite upset that this had been started without any discussion whatsoever. So there was a riff, for lack of a better word, between those who wanted to have the union to come in and those who felt like this was very unfair, it was very against the mission of the school, and that we didn’t have a choice in the matter. …

“I asked over and over again: In California, what rights do I have? Because this union has taken over my work environment without my choice. I chose to work at a school without a union and now they come in and they’re running everything about my contract and my work. How can that be fair? I didn’t want this. How can it be fair?”

Since the school’s unionization without a secret ballot vote, no monopoly bargaining contract has been approved. All the while, GPA parents and educators have accused SDEA agents of sowing division at the school, including by supporting anti-charter school legislation, making unnecessary and disparaging comments to school leadership during bargaining sessions, and plotting to prevent the California NAACP from giving the school’s director, Vincent Riveroll, an award for helping minority students succeed.

Despite this appalling situation, Dr. Chiscano and her fellow teachers could not find anyone to help them until they contacted the National Right to Work Foundation to request free legal assistance.

With this impending legal battle over the union’s attempt to block her decertification petition, Foundation staff attorneys are now providing Dr. Chiscano and her fellow teachers with free legal aid to challenge union officials’ attempt to stymie their right to hold a decertification vote to oust a union they believe lacks the support of a majority of the school’s educators.

Dr. Chiscano concluded her video by saying how important the Foundation’s legal aid was to her and her fellow teachers: “No matter the outcome, at least we had someone to guide us in our fight, because we had nobody.”

13 May 2020

Foundation Case Featured in the Wall Street Journal: “Chicago’s Union Pickpockets”

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The Wall Street Journal published an editorial in Tuesday’s paper detailing how two teachers are suing the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) with free legal aid from the National Right to Work Foundation, because union officials are forcing workers to pay dues in violation of their rights as recognized in the Foundation’s Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court victory.

The editorial quotes one of the two teachers represented by Foundation staff attorneys and shows how CTU and the Chicago School Board continued to take money from them in violation of their First Amendment rights:

When the CTU went on strike last fall, Joanne Troesch and Ifeoma Nkemdi didn’t want to stop teaching. Ms. Nkemdi says her second graders are “incredible, highly intelligent young people” but “already disenfranchised,” so “I didn’t feel they needed to be away from school, period. . . . Time away was going to be detrimental.”

Both teachers quit the union, and in late October asked Chicago Public Schools to stop deducting dues from their paychecks. But even after receiving notice, the union continued to pilfer $35.71 from Ms. Troesch and $59.51 from Ms. Nkemdi every two weeks. The CTU claims members may revoke permission for dues deductions only during the month of August, and anyone who leaves after that must pay until the next escape window.

The editorial also cites Foundation attorney Bill Messenger on such union-created “escape window” schemes:

As of May 1, there were some 89 active lawsuits nationwide challenging similar union “escape windows” or the forced collection of dues, says Bill Messenger, the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation lawyer who argued Janus. He represents the two teachers.

The editorial concludes that federal courts need to enforce the Janus decision against these “escape window” schemes:

[CTU’s top lawyer] says the union operates “stringently within the letter of the law.” The union’s escape-window shenanigans show otherwise. Federal courts need to enforce Janus or it will have no meaning.

4 Apr 2020

Foundation in the Wall Street Journal: More Changes Necessary to Protect Workers’ Right to Vote Out Unwanted Unions

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After the National Right to Work Foundation filed comments in January in support of policies to protect workers, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has issued its final rule eliminating some barriers that prevented workers from being able to decertify a union they oppose.

Late last year, National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix wrote in the Wall Street Journal encouraging the NLRB to remove such barriers for workers by highlighting actual examples of how these types of NLRB rules hurt working men and women across the country:

A variety of other nonstatutory policies, doctrines and “bars” prevent workers from holding votes to oust unions they oppose. In many cases, the policies are applied one after the other, blocking escape routes.

A majority of workers at a Wisconsin trucking company experienced this over the past two years. First, they were blocked from removing their union by the so-called voluntary-recognition bar. This stops workers from decertifying a union for up to a year after the union is installed through “card check”—a procedure that avoids the need for a secret ballot and makes workers vulnerable to union intimidation.

Then, after waiting a year for that bar to expire, the Wisconsin workers found they had been merged by Teamsters officials into a multicompany nationwide bargaining unit of about 24,000 workers. Suddenly the petition to oust the local union was 7,000 signatures short—for a workplace with fewer than 10 union workers. Last month the NLRB declined the Wisconsin workers’ appeal, though a majority of voting board members signaled they would revisit the “merger doctrine” policy in the future.

Mix went on to discuss more of the bureaucratically-created policies, including the recently eliminated “blocking charge” policy, that allow union bosses to prevent workers from choosing who represents them:

Other workers face other hurdles: The “settlement bar” blocks a decertification vote because of an NLRB settlement to which the workers weren’t a party; the “successor bar” blocks a vote for up to a year after a company is acquired; the “contract bar” blocks a vote for up to three years after a union contract is forged; and a “blocking charge” blocks a vote while union allegations against a company are pending. None of these are required by law.

The NLRB is addressing the voluntary-recognition bar and blocking charges through the current rule-making process, but the other policies are similarly destructive of workers’ legal right to vote out a union that lacks majority backing. Congress should act to protect workers from being trapped in union ranks they oppose, but in the meantime the NLRB has the authority to eliminate these barriers.

After the Foundation’s comments and advocacy, the NLRB has finally removed the “blocking charge” and “voluntary recognition bar” rules, but there is more work to be done to protect workers and remove barriers.

1 Apr 2020