I immediately attempted to terminate my membership. At the time, Wisconsin's forced union status left me with no choice but to continue to pay a private organization hundreds of dollars simply for the privilege of keeping my job. While I did receive a small refund, the year-long process of certified letters and fuzzy deadlines was cumbersome and downright insulting. I wanted nothing more than to be free from the union and negotiate my own contract as an independent professional.
Unfortunately, my story is far too common. Compulsory unionism and forced dues are serious business for the teacher labor unions nationwide. In 2010 alone, teachers unions collected $2 billion in union dues. $1.3 billion of those dues came from the 22 states and the District of Columbia, where teachers are required to pay. What's more is that union dues are highest in states where there is compulsory unionism — sometimes twice as much as compared to states where teachers have the option not to join the union. In Wisconsin, I paid upwards of $1,000 a year. Interestingly enough, dues have gone down since 2011 when the law changed and the local NEA chapter saw membership plummet.
I passionately believe that teachers should be able to decide for themselves, without fear or coercion, whether or not to join or fund a union. As college-educated professionals, we deserve ultimate control over our hard-earned paychecks.
During my personal ordeal, I found a non-union professional alternative to the NEA, called the Association of American Educators (AAE), an organization that truly represents their members' views. As a new member I was able to participate in a national membership survey that found 98% of teachers supportive of teacher freedom of choice.
Similarly, National Employee Freedom Week (August 16-22, 2015), a national effort to inform employees of the freedom they have regarding opting out of union membership, polled the public about these same issues. Nearly 83% of Americans believe that employees should be free to exit unions without penalty. Remarkably, nearly 29% of union members would opt out of membership if given the chance. This is particularly important for America's educators, who have the unique opportunity to exercise their right to choose a non-union association that best serves them and their profession.
The fact is Friedrichs is a simple case that will have a lasting impact. Let's put teachers in the driver's seat and hold all organizations accountable to their members. Teachers deserve freedom of association.