Elijah Grajkowski,Wisconsin public school teacher, explains why he would rather teach in freedom. Read his entire story in the Journal-Sentinel Online.
If the teachers union is as wonderful as it claims, then it should have no problem attracting members, without the need to force teachers to join.
For years, I have chosen not to be a member of the union. However, this is a choice I didn’t exactly have before Gov. Scott Walker’s collective-bargaining bill became law. As a compulsory union state, where teachers are required to pay union dues as a condition of employment, the most I could hope for was a “fair share” membership, where the union refunded me a small portion of the money that was taken from my paycheck that lawyers have deemed “un-chargeable.”
Every September, after lengthy, bureaucratic and unadvertised hurdles, I would file my certified letter to try to withdraw my union membership. Then, the union would proceed to drag its feet in issuing my small refund. I often wondered why this kind of burden would be put on an individual teacher like me. Shouldn’t it be up to the organization to convince people and to sell its benefits to potential members afresh each year?
As a public school teacher, I’ve thought critically about many unfair policies concerning the teachers union. Why is the Wisconsin Education Association Council granted special access to my paychecks through the school district, when other professional groups don’t have this privilege? Why should payroll clerks in school district offices do the job of collecting union dues money and then cutting and sending the union their monthly checks (all on the taxpayers’ dime)?
Do other organizations get this privilege? If not, why? What would happen if I went to my administrator and negotiated a deal for my own salary and benefits? Why can’t I do this? Maybe I would be able to negotiate something better for myself. I don’t know, as I haven’t been given the chance.
I allowed the union access to my paychecks so that it could turn around and tell me just how bad I had it. It’s the union’s job to encourage unrest, discontent and unhappiness amongst the rank and file; this is how it justifies its existence.
In my opinion, this has encouraged adversarial interactions with administrations. This is not how I want to live my life as a teacher. I wish to be thankful and grateful about what I have and realize that there are people out there paying taxes to support my position and benefits. Many Wisconsinites don’t have the salary, security or benefits that I have. I’m really in no position to complain.
All this past spring, I sat watching and listening to Wisconsin teachers and others protesting, shouting, chanting and skipping school to protest in Madison. This is not a group I wish to be a part of, nor do I wish to be represented by a group that endorses or engages in these kinds of tactics.
This school year, we must let the teachers unions sink or swim on its own, along with the multitude of other professional organizations that teachers can choose to belong to. Now that WEAC no longer has a money stream funneled from legions of Wisconsin teachers, it will have to compete for members just like every other organization.
Whether this means downsizing or reducing costs, organizations will be held accountable to market forces. Examine the difference for yourself.
Elijah Grajkowski of New Berlin is a Wisconsin public school teacher.