Should Teachers Be Required to Pay Agency Shop Fees?

Should Non-Union Teachers Be Required to Pay Agency Shop Fees?


Susan Staub, former Staff Director, Concerned Educators Against Forced Unionism (CEAFU)

The question could also ask, “Should eminently qualified teachers be required to pay a private organization for the privilege of keeping jobs they obtained on their own initiative and retained by their own merit?”

The answer, of course, is a resounding, “No!”

Yet, teacher union officials are demanding that educators all over America be fired if they refuse to pay union dues and fees.

And the demands are being met.  Literally tens of thousands of teachers in 20 states and the District of Columbia would be fired if they chose to stop paying dues.  Experience, dedication, qualifications – even  tenure  are irrelevant.

The “agency shop” is legal in 20 states and the District of Columbia.  There is no argument about that.  But the overriding question is not whether it’s legal – but whether it’s morally right.

Union officials base their demand for payment of fees in lieu of membership (agency shop) on the premise that they have to represent all members in a bargaining unit; therefore, all should pay.  They claim those who don’t are “riding free.”  That simply isn’t true.

What they don’t say is that they demanded that the government give them the privilege to represent all members of a bargaining unit.  (They call it “exclusive representation” – through “monopoly bargaining” is a much more accurate description.)  Because lawmakers gave in to that demand, teachers who want to represent themselves are not allowed to do so.

Now union officials claim that monopoly bargaining (exclusive representation) is a burden on dues-paying members.  Therefore, they insist, teachers who refuse to pay up should be fired from their jobs.

If union officials are serious about the representation of nonmembers being a burden, then the equitable solution is to let teachers who reject union membership fend for themselves.  Require unions to bargain only for those persons who want their services.  After all, if a union is unable to show its benefits to be attractive – if it does the best job – then teachers will want to join, and the co-called “free rider” problem will be solves.

We don’t believe anyone should be denied the right to join a union.  But we also don’t believe anyone should be forced to join or pay a union not of his or her own choosing.  So we’ll work with any union to remove the unfair “burden” of representing everyone.  Teachers must wake up to prevent this ruin of individual liberty.

It is absolutely untrue that those of us who oppose coercive unionism are anti-union.  There is a difference.  It’s the same distinction as between being against unresponsive and inadequate school officials and being against all school management.  We aren’t against teachers, we’re for teachers – every single, individual one.


Reprinted from INSTRUCTOR magazine, Copyright March,1978.  Used with permission.