News Story

With Right-to-Work, Employees No Longer Have to Put Up With Unions Opposed to Their Values

At the National Education Association annual convention, the nationwide teachers union passed an action item warning its members about right-to-work laws that “undermine high-quality education for every child.”

But critics of the NEA say what right-to-work laws really undermine is the union's ability to promote a far-left ideology that violates the values of conservative members the union boasts of representing.

In Michigan, teachers pay $183 a year to the NEA as part of membership in the Michigan Education Association.

The NEA's Michigan affiliate also tries to make it hard for members of any political persuasion to leave, notwithstanding Michigan's right-to-work law: August is the only month in which the MEA says members can stop paying dues to their union. School employees looking to take advantage of this year's "opt-out window" can find information at

This barrier to exit may not hold up much longer, however. Administrative Law Judge Julia C. Stern ruled in 2014 that public employees can resign from a union at any time of the year. Execution of this ruling is likely to happen at an upcoming meeting of the Michigan Employment Relations Commission.

The NEA has a long tradition of supporting left-of-center candidates and policies, many that have little to do with the teaching profession. For example, the NEA voted on agenda items involving abortion and global warming at its July meeting. It has also pointedly advertised that many of its members are teachers who consider themselves to be conservative.

Beyond state right-to-work laws, an upcoming U.S. Supreme Court case may have a big impact on the NEA and other public sector unions. The court could rule in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association that requiring “agency fees” from employees is unconstitutional, which would in effect be the equivalent of extending right-to-work to all public sector employees.

Workers don’t have to financially support the union as a condition of employment in right-to-work states. In states without right-to-work, they can pay an “agency fee,” which is the calculated cost of supporting the union without paying for the costs of the union’s political advocacy, and does not lower the cost very much.

Larry Sand, a former teacher and president of the California Teachers Empowerment Network, said the NEA could lose a large percentage of its conservative members if the Supreme Court rules agency fees are unconstitutional.

“You would think at this point, if they lose the Friederichs case and teachers have to volunteer to sign up, that they have to appeal to a larger base and they can’t run with this left-wing crap all the time,” Sand said. “They would want to be a bigger-tent group and modify their political message.”

F. Vincent Vernuccio, director of labor policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, pointed to the resolutions the NEA recently passed promoting a far-left agenda.

“The resolutions passed at the NEA convention add fuel to the fire for the call to protect the First Amendment for teachers and other public employees,” Vernuccio said in an email. “When the Supreme Court hears the Friedrichs case next year it will determine if government unions such as the NEA are inherently political organizations which cannot compel support.”

Vernuccio says the NEA engaging matters that have nothing to do with workplace representation or even education makes more compelling the arguments of teachers in the case who want to be free from NEA politics.

The action item on right-to-work that was passed by the NEA in July read: “The NEA will avoid as much as possible the use of our opponents’ language such as 'right-to-work' in its publications, literature, videos, interviews, etc. Instead, the NEA shall take the opportunity to frame the issue in a positive way for educators by referring to such laws as 'educating without rights' or 'work without protection' laws. Further, the NEA will use social media and other appropriate low-cost or no-cost communication to inform members about the problems of the these laws and how they undermine high-quality education for every child.”

The NEA’s spokesman Richard Allen Smith did not return an email seeking comment.


See also:

National Teachers Union Boasts of Having 'Conservative' Members While Undermining Their Values

A Look at the Left-Wing Groups the National Education Association Supports

Teachers Union: Many Members Conservative; Overwhelmingly Funds 'Progressive' Groups

The Left's Piggy Bank?

What Do Teachers Want to Support?

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.