Sand: Citizens Battle Union Entitlements

Through the courts and legislation, Americans are telling the unions where to stick their privilege.

Via weak-kneed and corrupt elected officials, unions have been taking advantage of American citizens left and right for years now. But in ever greater numbers, people are standing up to the bullies and fighting back.

Release time” is a practice that allows public employees to conduct union business during working hours, with the taxpayer footing the bill. These activities include negotiating contracts, lobbying, processing grievances, and attending union meetings and conferences. (In some cases, part of the expense of the union worker’s replacement is paid by the union.)

According to Trey Kovacs, a policy analyst at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, this racket has cost the federal government about $1 billionsince 1998. Until recently, there has been little pushback against this legalize theft. But that seems to be changing. In Syracuse, NY, Michael Hunter, an outraged taxpayer, is suing the local school district for paying the teachers union president’s salary while she does union work. Megan Root stopped teaching high school in 2008 when she became the full-time president of the Syracuse Teachers Association. Hunter’s lawyer, Cameron McDonald argued that release time is unconstitutional and violates New York’s gift clause, which “prevents municipalities from giving or loaning money to private associations.”

Also, two New Jersey residents are embroiled in a legal dispute with the Jersey City Education Association. They argue that the teacher union president and vice-president – former teachers in Jersey City – should not be accorded the release time perk as it is an “exceptionally generous gift” that serves no public service. Responding to the charge, Tina Thorp, the union vice-president – obviously vying for the “Chutzpah-Comment-of-the-Year” award – stated that “not having district-paid union workers would be ‘disastrously disruptive’ to the education of the district’s 28,000 students and its staff.”

Release time has become a statewide issue in Pennsylvania where the Fairness Center, a public interest law firm, has been hammering away at the issue by trying to get a bill through the state legislature. SB 494 wouldban Pennsylvania public school districts “from entering into collective bargaining agreements permitting union leave for teachers that lasts more than three consecutive days or more than 30 days in a school year.” Nina Esposito-Visgitis, the president of the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers, defends the practice, “…the work the union does – empowering teachers and giving them the tools and resources to do their jobs better – ultimately benefits students.”  Sure.

Throughout the country, many unions receive another big taxpayer-funded perk by having teachers’ union dues collected by the local school district.

Read the rest here at the California Policy Center.

Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues.

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