While Bitsy Galaska would never try to stop anyone from belonging to her local union, the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) was never a good fit for her. But, since she believed her membership was compulsory, she followed her training as a certified school librarian and set about to learn more about the union, figuring more knowledge would help her make sense of her forced association.
“I thought, well, if I have to belong to this group, I should understand it.”
Sadly, learning about her union only made things worse. She sat in meetings listening to what, to her, sounded a lot like political propaganda as she and others were “told” how they should vote in elections. She never heard anyone speak to her own fiscally conservative views.
“What did this have to do with educating our students?”
“I felt isolated,” she says. “Then came the Scott Walker governor-recall debacle.”
Bitsy’s research showed that PSEA had contributed $21,815.65 of members’ dues money — including Bitsy’s — to the We Are Wisconsin Political Fund to help unseat Governor Scott Walker in the recall bid.
“My dues money went to this! What did this have to do with educating our students?” she asks. “What does this have to do with making our schools better? What does this have to do with my conservative views? Absolutely nothing! I knew I had to do something to leave this political machine.”
Further research revealed to Bitsy that she could resign her membership in the union … well, kind of.
“It costs more to not be part of a political union…
…than to be a member.”
“I still had to pay compelled union fees of $460 a year for contract negotiations,” she says. “For a four-year contract, I’m paying $1,840.” She was punished for resigning membership too. “I have to purchase my own professional liability insurance at $228 a year. It costs more to not be part of a political union than to be a member. I’ll sleep better when I don’t have to pay for PSEA’s political agenda.”
To that end, Bitsy joined several colleagues in a federal case, Hartnett et. al. v. Pennsylvania State Education Association, to legally challenge the practice of forcing non-member teachers to financially support a union. And, as it turned out, Bitsy’s research really did help her understand what the union was all about.
“That’s big business!’
“There are approximately 200 teachers in my school district. PSEA says that the $459 they charge [in mandatory fees] per person is for contract negotiations. That means PSEA gets $91,800 per year, $367,200 total, from us for a four-year contract and that is just one school district. That’s big business!”
Thankfully teachers like Bitsy now have the freedom to say “No” to funding union politics. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June 2018 that all compulsory fees to unions are now unconstitutional. It’s about time!