March 4, 2011

Letter: Teachers are smart enough to decide for themselves

A letter to the editor from a former Dalton teacher presented an impassioned view of the financial problems faced by classroom teachers. Unfortunately, that is an accurate description of the challenges teachers face with inadequate compensation for supplies. However, the description of what he viewed as an assault on the ability of teachers to bargain collectively in Wisconsin was not correct.

What the unions are resisting is giving up the right to force union membership and dues as a requirement to teach in Wisconsin. The teachers’ union would still have the right to collective bargaining for wages and other issues. What the proposed law would do is to say teachers would have the right to opt out of required union membership and dues. Wisconsin law allows compulsory unionism, and teachers are required to join simply for the privilege of having a job.

Wisconsin teachers have no say about the more than $800 a year deducted for union dues. Locally, the National Education Association and the Georgia Association of Educators offer collective protections for teachers, especially in legal services, but it is a conscious decision by the teachers if they wish to join. Although union membership is not a requirement for employment in Georgia, I chose to belong to both when I was employed by the Dalton school system.

The teachers in Wisconsin were not protesting on their day off. They called in “sick” and were caught on camera getting fraudulent notes from doctors. Some even encouraged their students to skip school to protest with them.

What is sad to see is the return to physical “thuggery” by union members that gave a black eye to union organizers so many years ago. One would hope they could persuade the public to their views without resorting to physical and mental intimidation.

Our teachers are intelligent enough to evaluate whether unions really represent them as professionals. Because Georgia is a right-to-work state, teachers have the right to opt out of union representation if they disagree with the way their unions use their dues.

Ina Fay Manly



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