"Closed Shop" Teacher Unions--Legal?

Some school districts have a policy–commonly referred to as “Closed Shop”–which requires all new hires to be members of the teacher’s union. Yes, requires. Eventually, all employees will be members as older instructors retire–that is the goal. It has such a creepy takeover feel!

I must clarify–it isn’t that you have to be in the union; you just have to pay the annual dues. $700+ worth, that is, deducted every month from your paycheck automatically in installments. Either you pay and become a member, or you just pay and decline membership, or you have to give the money to an approved charity (public, not private, and non-religious). They require receipts as proof of this. At a union meeting today, we were told that the receipt of money donated must be received by October–the second month of school. So now you’re punished even more for not being a union member–you have to come up with that $700+ at once, after receiving only one (the September) paycheck.

I want to know, lawyer people out there, how the hell this is legal. How on earth is it permissable for them to tell me what to do with my money when it comes to a stinkin’ union? (FWIW, I am a member–but I resent that I have to be.) What gives them the right to tell me what to do with my money–and demand I give it to the charity of their approval?


As I understand it, what you have there is actually closer to a union shop, not a closed shop. With the union shop, new hires are required to join the union after being hired. With the closed shop, a person cannot be hired unless he is already a member of the union.

The Taft-Harley Act of 1947 (The Labor-Management Relations Act) prohibits the closed shop but permits the union shop (except where prohibited by state law.) California permits the union shop. About 20 states prohibit the union shop and are called open shop states. These states are mostly southern, great plains, and mountain states.

North Carolina is a “Right to work state”…You can’t be forced to join a union in order to get a job.

You don’t have to be. You are free to seek employment at a school that has no such requirements.

Clarification: The Taft-Hartley Act prohibits the closed shop only with respect to businesses involved in interstate commerce. Exactly what this means in practice I can’t say, since the definition of what constitutes interstate commerce seems to change from week to week. I’d guess a public school wouldn’t fall under that umbrella, but I’ve given up trying to follow the ins and outs of interstate commerce.

bibliophage, you and the Supreme Court both. :wink:

In answer to the OP:

Why shouldn’t you be forced to join the union? You reap the benefits the union has managed to extort, er, that is, negotiate out of the school district over the years, including salary, benefits, work rules, etc. Why should you get a free ride on the back of the union without contributing to the effort?

Now, if you want to go back to the school district and renegotiate your contract without the power of the union behind you, if you want to face the possibility of being fired without cause, or notice, as any other hire-at-will employee without a union-negotiated labor contract, if you want to work whatever hours your employer wishes to set for you with no option other than quitting, then I suppose you could have some quibble. In that case, move to a state that requires open shops, or work for a private school with no union. :wink:

I am a member of our teacher’s union because I want to be. I’m just stunned that it isn’t an option in case I didn’t want to be.

I reap the benefits, and feel obligated to be a part of it. Still, I don’t agree with the several of the philosophies behind the teacher’s union, or some of the practices they encourage. Sometimes they are flat-out ugly, and of questionable ethics. I believe some of their statistics are manipulated so that we members will get riled up, unless we stop to think. (Case in point: an article detailing how teachers are the lowest paid professionals when compared with those who have similar levels of education. What they failed to compare were work hours. How many days–months–off do we get, versus a lawyer? A doctor? A nurse? I am paid for 180 work days. A doctor is paid for closer to 250, if not more. Sheesh.)

I just find it odd that it is legal to force someone in a profession to join some sort of political club. As for receiving employment from a nonclosed-shop district, I would if I was that bothered by being a member. I’m not. And frankly, if anything ever happens and I get worked (by a parent, student, or hiring district), I want their protection. Flawed as a union is, I still find it more beneficial to be a part of it than not.

(Also, every district I applied to in this area was a closed shop–or, on its way to becoming one.)

What a strange, strange world the polictics of business is.

Whoever came up with the “right to work” slogan was a genius. On the surface, it’s a pro-labor right; you don’t have to join a union if you don’t want to. In reality, it’s one of the most anti-labor practices in existence. Right to work laws make it possible for employers to ignore unions and once the unions are powerless, the employees are vulnerable.

I have to agree with Little Nemo, freedom is a bitch.

Just for balance, here is the web site of the evil Nazis who question the necessity of every worker to pay dues to union bosses for the right to work (just kidding, Little Nemo):

National Right to Work Foundation – “Defending workers from forced uni… - A non-profit organization providing free legal aid nationwide to thousands of employees whose human and civil rights have been violated by compulsory unionism abuses” http://www.nrtw.org/

What’s really amazing to me is that more than 50% of American workers don’t belong to unions!

Sorry, I’m from Texas–whut is this union thang, anyway?


Like I said, Yeah, it’s a stroke of propaganda genius. The Confederates should have been this smart; “Yes, Mr. Lincoln, we’re going to abolish slavery. We’re also going to establish a comprehensive program guaranteeing the rights of negroes to pick cotton.” The United States could have guaranteed the Indians’ “Right to move to reservations”, the Soviets could have guaranteed the Ukrainians’ “Right to diet”, the Nazis could have guaranteed the Jews’ “Right to participate in the Holocaust”, the Khmer Rouge could have guaranteed the Cambodians “Right to be buried in a mass grave”. There’s no end to the Rights the common people need to have given to them by their government.

Ok, Little Nemo, you’ve gone way too far the other way, and not been very logical about it.
Open shop laws don’t preclude unions. So, if a group of workers wish to unionize, they can. Want the benefits of a union? Organize. Employer gets too oppressive in what it requires from you? Organize. After all, that’s what the impetus to form unions in the first place was. And unlike the mid-1800’s, you don’t have to worry about labor laws that are anti-union, making striking illegal, etc.

On the other hand, what open-shop laws do do is dillute the strength of a union, by limiting its value to protection of issues important enough that the vast majority of potential workers in the industry will agree to go to the mat over them. Thus, if the union is feeling its oats, and wants to jump wages 15% over three years when workers are already paid enough to satisfy them, the union might have trouble maintaining membership and being able to extort, er, um, that is negotiate the raise they want.
A little logic always helps when viewing issues, don’t you think? :wink:

“You don’t have to be [a member of a union in a union shop]. You are free to seek employment at a school that has no such requirements.” - Lance Turbo

That’s the open shop argument that people who don’t like the working conditions, pay, etc. at a school are free to seek employment at a school that offers pay and conditions they like rather than unionize the school and require all its teachers to pay into a union.

Were you being sarcastic?

Anyway, the important thing is that we have had for many years two very strong, politically savvy, national teachers’ unions with enough clout to defeat the right-to-work laws in the majority of states. No doubt these unions, representing the interests of the teachers of the public schools of America, can take credit for the fact that American public school education is as good as it is and the envy of the rest of the world. I say, keep it up. Let the selfish malcontents who are too cheap to pay their union dues go to work at private, open shop schools where they can slave for pennies under miserable condtions teaching society’s rejects and the children of parents who take no interest in their children’s educations.