Friday, January 19, 2007

It's about time!

Hot off the Nashville Post press is the news that a teacher is suing the MNEA because the union won't let her quit the union when SHE wants to quit.

Kristy Carr, a teacher at Haywood Elementary School, filed the lawsuit this week in Davidson County Chancery Court (copy of complaint and attachments available at this link). The legal filings show that she has been trying to quit the union since early in the current school year, but that the MNEA has responded that according to its bylaws, she can only resign during a two-month window of time in April and May of each year.

Carr says the union, and the school system that has acted in accord with union policy in the matter by continuing to withhold dues from her paycheck, have violated her rights under Tennessee's Right To Work statute and other provisions of state law.
You've got to read the rest. Remember, the story isn't Larry Crain's other clients--it's the fact that MNEA doesn't play well with it's own 'members'. Is this how a professional organization treats it members or is it a protectionist union tactic?

MNPS needs to default to the current wishes of the employee and immediately stop withholding these dues. The money MNPS will be spending to justify the union's actions will be money not available for the benefit of our children. This expense will only benefit the union.

Page 3 of the complaint says the union requires teachers to quit the union before the end of the school year between April 1 and May 31. Many teachers won't even know then if they'll be working the next year. Seems to me that union membership ought to mirror a teaching contract.

Page 8--it's not just MNEA dues, it's also TEA and NEA dues that were being deducted without Ms. Carr's permission.

Page 11--Attorney Crain has had this run in with MNEA before. Apparently, this time he's got a client willing to fight. Good for her. I hope this is the first of many more.

I'm glad to see someone take up this fight. It's ridiculous that an employee can't control the deductions from their own paycheck and that MNPS is acting as MNEA's agent.

The MNEA alternative is Professional Educators of Tennessee.


Tom said...

“Seems to me that union membership ought to mirror a teaching contract.”

Exactly. On an annual basis. Ms. Carr obviously checked the "continuing membership" box on the enrollment form or she would, as many members do, indeed get to decide at the beginning of each school year if she wishes to be a member.

A member should absolutely be able to quit whenever they want, I agree, but that doesn't negate the financial obligation made when joining or rejoining.

It seems both MNEA and PET offer annual memberships. PET asks for 100% of these annual dues up front. MNEA members have the option to pay all up front, or they can pay over the course of the year, by means of payroll deduction. If MNEA required that 100% of annual dues be paid up front, like PET does, I suspect they’d be less concerned about when a member quits.

But MNEA is quite aware how hard it is to make a lump sum payment on a teacher’s budget; thankfully, they allow us to pay our annual dues over time. You and the litigious Mr. Crain seem to wish to spin this in a way that implies MNEA members have an option of renewing membership and paying dues on a biweekly basis. Not the case. What membership organization does that? Like most things academic, membership, setting the MNEA budget, the MNPS budget, the cycle to negotiate annual contracts and annual insurance agreements and annual school placements, this is all, well … annual. Membership in our subject matter organizations, like the National (and TN) Council for Teachers of English, is annual. I suspect the insurance policies MNEA provides are annual policies, not biweekly policies.

I find it highly ironic that PET does not allow members to renew membership and pay dues on a biweekly basis, but they are suing MNEA for not allowing members to decide membership and pay dues on a biweekly basis.

Ms. Carr absolutely has the option to leave the union. In many states, she would not even have that option. As for me, I like the option to pay my annual dues over time, but I’m quite aware what “annual” means.

Kay Brooks said...

According to the PET site dues are currently $149.00. If you join their national affiliate Association of American Educators that's another $150.00 for a total of $299.00. That amount shouldn't be a financial stretch for the average teacher especially, if they've been in the system for a while and have had time to budget.

According to MNEA dues are

NEA: $145.00
TEA: $242.00
MNEA: $142.00
Total $529.00

A tidy sum to be sure but still could be dealt with by personally saving in advance for most teachers. See if budgeting is a problem.

It seems that a part of the problem may be having to interface with the MNPS payroll system which may complicate the ability of teachers to drop out. MNPS needs to get out from the middle of this.

I don't see that PET is a party in this lawsuit.

I can understand that like every organization MNEA needs to have some idea of what their financial resources are going to be for the year and so I can compromise on requiring Ms. Carr to finish her financial commitment to the MNEA AND still have the right to quit at the drop of a hat.

But I'm not the complainant.

Anne said...

This practice is pretty typical for most union-represented professions.

She knew how to get out of it, and now she's complaining because she forgot.