Summer Sale Extended! Get unlimited digital access for 13 weeks for $13.
Op-Eds
News Opinion Op-Eds

Unions do their business on taxpayers' dime

It's the old "fair share" argument, but this time it holds even less water than usual.

The Maryland State Education Association, the union that bargains on behalf of K-12 teachers throughout Maryland, wants to force all teachers — members or not — to pay union dues. The union claims educators owe their "fair share" because it must represent non-union members in collective bargaining and grievances.

At the moment, 10 of Maryland's 24 school districts already require non-union teachers to pay union dues. House Bill 667 would expand the provision to cover all public school employees in the state.

Currently, the bill, which forces teachers to pay union dues as a condition of employment, awaits only the signature of Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat with designs on the 2016 presidential race. If enacted, the legislation would require school districts to negotiate with the MSEA to set a compulsory fee to "cover" non-union members' representation costs.

The MSEA now represents 80 percent of all Maryland school employees, or about 70,000 workers. According to the Maryland Reporter, fees for non-union members average $400 to $500 per teacher. That's an additional $7 million to $8.75 million for the MSEA if this succeeds.

Of course, MSEA representative Adam Mendelson says this is not about money but about "ending the patchwork approach and creating equity among all educators."

But what if teachers don't want this type of "equity"? What if they don't want to join a union? What if they want to negotiate their own contract? Why shouldn't they be allowed to do so?

Moreover, Maryland and most other states already bill taxpayers for representational services provided by government-employee unions to nonmembers. The practice is known as union release time or "official time," and it allows government employees to perform union duties during their workday.

Most Marylanders have no idea how many millions of dollars of their money already go to pay workers to perform union duties. Through the state's Public Information Act, the Competitive Enterprise Institute obtained union release-time records for nine of the 10 school districts that already require forced union dues. Here are the number of days taken for official time in 2011-2012:

•Allegany County: 81.5 days

•Anne Arundel County: 209 days

•Baltimore City: 84 days

•Baltimore County: 60 days

•Calvert County: 120 days

•Charles County: 31.8 days

•Garrett County: 17.5 days

•Howard County: 48 days

•Prince George's County: 322 days

In Prince George's, where schools fall so far short of the mark that lawmakers voted to turn over control of the system to the county executive, one union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, was allotted 3,068.5 hours of release time — at a cost to the district of nearly $90,000. (AFSCME represents bus drivers and nurses for Prince George's County Public Schools.)

In total, the nine districts awarded 973.8 days of union release time, which is equal to nearly 5.5 full school years taken up each year for performance of union duties.

If Governor O'Malley truly wanted to put students first, if he truly valued taxpayers more than unions, he would veto this legislation and force unions to at least enact this system on a county-by-county basis.

But this is Maryland, so don't count on it.

Trey Kovacs is a labor policy analyst at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. His email is tkovacs@cei.org. Alex Habighorst contributed to this article.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
Related Content
  • Fair Share is a smart policy that protects equity and individual rights

    It's hard to know where to begin when responding to Trey Kovacs' recent op-ed ("Unions do their business on taxpayers' dime," April 18), which is riddled with inaccuracies and misrepresentations. So instead of talking about what recently passed Fair Share legislation isn't, as his article did,...

  • Fair Share will make school systems better

    It's unfortunate that reality and Trey Kovacs' recent commentary ("Unions business on taxpayers' dime," April 19) seem to bear little relation to one another. As the president of the Teachers Association of Baltimore County, I can say that he's way off on the two topics he attempts to tackle in...

  • Baltimore needs school choice

    Baltimore needs school choice

    Nearly a half-century after local and national uprisings around the passing of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., what is the one aspect of the urban condition in Baltimore that has changed too little but can transform a person's life and livelihood, and ultimately his or her community?

  • The tragedy after Hurricane Katrina

    The tragedy after Hurricane Katrina

    After the storm waters of Hurricane Katrina subsided, devastation remained: unsafe and waterlogged structures, with moldy, crumbling walls; unsalvageable fridges and soggy couches; indoor rivulets of mud. Local economies collapsed. A million people were displaced. Thousands of residents lost everything...

  • Vester Flanagan makes witnesses of us all

    Vester Flanagan makes witnesses of us all

    "I've seen enough. I don't want to see any more" -- Bruce Springsteen, "Cover Me"

  • Why does there have to be one black voice?

    Why does there have to be one black voice?

    A nonprofit booked me to speak to some young writers from Baltimore. "How does it feel to be the voice of the people?" a girl in square frames with a pumped fist asked. "I don't speak for all of Black America," I told her. "I'm not the voice of black Baltimore, or Down Da Hill, or Latrobe Projects...

  • Jimmy Carter shows his faith as he faces death

    Jimmy Carter shows his faith as he faces death

    When Ronald Reagan announced inNovember 1994 he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, even some of his most ardent political opponents paused to wish him well.

  • Legislation would make curbing overdose a federal priority

    Legislation would make curbing overdose a federal priority

    A 24-year-old athlete from Columbia, a teenage girl from Glen Burnie who wanted to become a medical examiner and a 21-year-old brother of two from Pasadena. What do these three individuals have in common? Each died from a drug overdose.

Comments
Loading
81°