• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • NEA General Counsel: Union Dues, Not Education, Are Our Top Priority

    General Counsel Bob Chanin explains to NEA convention why Big Labor is so powerful:


    Despite what some among us would like to believe it is not because of our creative ideas; it is not because of the merit of our positions; it is not because we care about children; and it is not because we have a vision of a great public school for every child.

    The NEA and its affiliates are effective advocates because we have power. And we have power because there are more than 3.2 million people who are willing to pay us hundreds of million of dollars in dues each year because they believe that we are the unions that can most effectively represent them; the union that can protect their rights and advance their interests as education employees.

    This is not to say that the concern of NEA and its affiliates with closing achievement gaps, reducing drop rate rates, improving teacher quality, and the like are unimportant or inappropriate. To the contrary these are the goals that guide the work we do. But they need not and must not be achieved at the expense of due process, employee rights, or collective bargaining.

    That is simply too high a price to pay.

    Where to begin? First of all, there is little that is voluntary about the millions in dues paid to the NEA every year. The NEA is strongest in states without right to work laws, and if you want to teach in a public school that is under an NEA contract in those jurisdictions (like California and New York), you must pay dues to the NEA. It is the law. There is nothing voluntary about it. Second, that is tax payer money he’s talking about, which is exactly what is so corrupting about public sector unions: the government is lobbying itself for its own expansion.

    And what are “employee rights” and “due process,” you might ask? Well, those are what require New York City to pay 700 union teachers $65 million a year to do nothing. Same thing in Los Angeles, where 165 union teachers collect a total of $10 million a year from tax payers for doing nothing.

    If you have the time, do watch the whole 25 minute address. Chanin recounts the rise of public sector collective bargaining, with a rapid rise in teacher unionization in the late 60s. He talks about all the victories the NEA has won for teachers since then. But ask yourselves, as the NEA has exploded in membership, budget, and power, how have American students fared? What have unions done for their education? Absolutely nothing.

    Posted in Education [slideshow_deploy]

    39 Responses to NEA General Counsel: Union Dues, Not Education, Are Our Top Priority

    1. Dexter Massoletti, S says:

      We should thank Bob Chanin for his candor and Conn Carroll for laying it out.

      This is the consequence of corporate governance, or perhaps better said, disguised gangsterism: public sector unionism. It is also seen in various governmental divisions hiring lobbyists to leverage other governmental divisions against the interests of the people on the taxpayers' dime. No different than a seniority system in the House of Representatives — or the uncounted number of little acorns scattered at the foot of this country's biggest drug-like weed.

      The corrupt in the political class perhaps are reaching for their own demise; we can hope they will not disappoint.

    2. Pingback: NEA is effective because it has power « Marc Whitman’s Blog

    3. Pingback: NEA General Counsel Bob Chanin, Lets The Truth About Teachers Unions Slip Out | Democrat = Socialist

    4. Pingback: » Financial News Update - 07/09/09 NoisyRoom.net: “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. Moderation in the face of tyranny is no virtue.” Barry Goldwater

    5. Pingback: No Wonder Schools are Such a Wreck : The Sundries Shack

    6. Pingback: NEA General Counsel explains the real goal of teacher unions: MONEY and POWER « Wintery Knight Blog

    7. Joseph A. Pacinelli, says:

      This is a sad commentary on the power of the union and its abuse of a system that cries for reform. We as a people have become soft, callous, or disconnected from involvement. We should be marching and demonstrating our displeasure over the way our system has become. I am as guilty as the next person.

    8. Natalie, TX says:

      Thank Mark Levin and Landmark Legal Foundation for going after the NEA and taking them to court for their illegal contributions to liberal candidates. It's truely disgusting that the teachers in our schools participate in an organization like this. We have to be diligent in our children's education and make sure they understand the basis on which this country was founded. I personally have had to listen to my son come home from school saying things like "we are killing our planet" and "Obama will take care of us". Thankfully when I talk to him and tell him the truth he sees these things are incorrect. Our educators have been indoctrinated by the radical left and are happy to do the same to our children. They must be stopped and their "power" must be taken away.

    9. Maria, Tennessee says:

      Yes, teachers "volunteer" to pay dues like we "volunteer" to pay taxes…right?

    10. Marshall Hill MI. says:

      These people claim to be well educated and dedicated to Our Children's Educational Excellence!

      Until Greed took over!

    11. Robert T. Davis says:

      Union monopoly schools need competition in the form of vouchers. If Republicans would ever understand this they can really give big city Democrats a fit as folks realize it its just that politicians of both parties are scared to death of these worthless teacher unions.

    12. Tim AZ says:

      Most schools are Federally funded based on a childs attendance. I know it isn't appealing to single parents to home school their children. But starving public schools of federal dollars would greatly reduce the number of teachers needed in public schools. Less teachers means less money for unions to buy a politicians favors. Eventually starving the unions out of existence. Then Americas public schools can once again be a shining example of excellence in education. Teachers could actually witness the fruits of their labors through their students achievements during their adult lives.

    13. Dennis A. Social Cir says:

      The union are going to get all they want, obama owes them his election. He is just a puppet on the string for them,as well as the rest of the dems. A union had it's place and time, both are now gone!!!!!

    14. Rich, Whistler, BC says:

      The only way to fix this is to follow Denmark's example and allocate the money to each child to attend the school of her choice. This would encourage competition between schools and for schools to recruit the best teachers. Public schools would have to improve or die.

    15. Tim AZ says:

      Home schooling Is an option. Not an appealing one to single parents I know. Fewer students means fewer teachers. Fewer teachers means less money for the unions to buy favors from politicians. Soon the unions would go broke trying keep all the goodies bought and payed for with our tax dollars. How can I say our tax dollars? Because public school teachers are payed with tax dollars period. We could place America's public schools back at the top of the list of the best educated in the world. Or we could continue to treat our children as just an easy way to make a living while creating a dependent society of drones.

    16. Tim Mills, Baltimore says:

      I am shocked that NEA would not see students as the priority. I'm not a teacher yet, but I'm in the education field. As someone who works with student who recieve special education, I don't know what I shoud say. If student aren't the number one priority of edcators, what is their real purpose?

    17. Barb -mn says:

      Isn't this a case of extortion? The tax payers are paying for education. Teachers and administration get paid by the tax payers. Do "union dues" come out of that check? It's extortion. Unions have nothing to do with the benefit of education. The records show them to be corrupt, increasing corruption. And nobody's held accountable. Somebody should be filing some law suits? Sure you'll say it's garnished from their pay. But I'll say it doesn't matter anyway, it came from taxpayers paying for education. In order for it to be "fair", they would have to cash the check and write them out a personal one.

      There's gotta be a technicality somewhere.

      They protect the undisciplined ADULTS with our tax dollars! This can't be legal! Dismiss all government unions. They are not in the best interest of a civil people and putting children in danger. Home schooling is the safest, best idea!

    18. Tom NC says:

      This video should be forwarded to everyone on your email list. In North Carolina 49% of the children failed their 2007/2008 end of grade tests and 30% of the children droped out prior to graduating from high school and 33% of those going into prison in 2008 tested at a sixth grade or less reading level. Those numbers are from the NC State records.

      Among the ideas to save money in our budget is to eliminate the tests. Thank you, President Bush for the No Child Left Behind law otherwise we would notknow how bad things are.

    19. Dexter Massoletti, S says:

      Perhaps the current intense focus on the national consequences of the almost-militaristic centralization of governance as in the case of the Education Industry, distracts from the more serious manifestation of corporate government: State and Local government, leveraged by community activist employment of imported agitation and propaganda, appealing to those with no interests in our way of life AND the ability to use our freedoms and sense of justice against us.

      The number of government employees, total about 22 million; about 3 million Federal, about 6 million State, and about 12 million local. We have a government employee for every 13 people in the country, of whom only 7 are the real providers of support for all.

      Most of the government is unionized (which is the bulk of all union membership) as if they need protection from their employer: The People. Taxpayers pay for both sides of any litigation generated in this system – as well as any costs or penalties, often instigated by yet another ‘Industry’ (the Legal Business, another non-productive sector of the economy) well-rooted in government at all levels. Again with another union, stronger than its assumed purpose and predisposed to turmoil.

      This is the real socio-economic crisis, for which the half-educated have not prepared the uneducated, as was their job.

      The proper action today is to start not just at the top of this pile, but at the bottom as well — take back control of local government, beginning with the school boards and school administrations. Cleaning them out will not take as long as it took to see them corrupted, but it will take loud, bold, and firm action. Those now without a paying job can do more important work in this and once it actually begins, it will sweep the country as a new wave of freedom.

    20. John, Fargo, ND says:

      Tis indeed a sad situation when everyone jumps on the bandwagon and dishes dirt on comments by a LAWYER, NOT a teacher. But of course, that is what we have done as a nation for the past 30 years, dump on teachers and on their union. Unions have not lost their place in our society, they are needed more than ever as our middle class has faded – the rich get richer and the poor get poorer while the middle class is squeezed from both ends. It is not the employer or the corporate world that looks out for the common man, it is the union. Have there been abuses? Yes, as there is in almost any large group but the NEA and the state unions have done far more for teachers, schools, students, and education than all the politicians combined. Try and be fair when you judge something!

    21. Nelia, AZ says:

      It has been my understanding the NEA has not done much about salaries for teachers, which I believe was the incentive for the organization in the first place as an attempt to have some negotiation clout. A pay-scale more in keeping with the importance of the teacher's role would have provided incentive for the best to seek this profession and not have so many excellent educators leave for a better paying profession. Instead the NEA has been busy revising text books and promoting a Liberal agenda with their powerful lobby. As a result, the students have received, and are receiving a dumbed down education.

    22. Pingback: Ed is Watching » iVoices: Ben DeGrow, Amy Oliver Talk about Teachers Union Priorities

    23. RDS, Tulsa says:

      I am an ashamed member of this hideous organization…not by choice. I found out about his comments from our state email update. Here is how they are spinning his speech…

      "NEWEST NEA ATTACK- When schools are about to start the new fall semester some organizations start their fundraising efforts by attempting to persuade OEA-NEA members to drop their membership and some media outlets spread untruths. This year is no different. The emails are already flying through cyber space and the presses are already printing distortions about the decisions that were made by 9,000 of your school colleagues who attended the NEA representative assembly.

      The newest attack is about a speech that was delivered by NEA General Counsel, Bob Chanin. Bob is retiring after 41 years of service to the NEA and its members. In his remarks, Bob spoke about the battles he fought to ensure school employees the right to bargain collectively, the fight to ensure due process for NEA members, and the fight to rid No Child Left Behind of bad provisions.

      He went on to say that NEA’s success brings contempt from some segments of our society. His passionate remarks, wry humor, and word selection has irritated our detractors and they are now attempting to paint the entire NEA family with a negative brush. They are trying to deceive good, decent, conservative members to leave their organization. They deceive faithful local clergy to raise a misguided alarm to members. Ultimately, their goal is to weaken our efforts and lessen our success to adequately fund schools and create a great public school for every child.

      If this, or any other issue arises in your local, please give us a call at 800-522-8091 so that President Becky Felts, Vice President Linda Hampton, or any of the OEA staff can help you learn the truth."

      I am a conservative who believes in choice…school choice. I really don't think the NEA cares about educating kids. They are more concerned with keeping and increasing their power (= more money). And now the general council has actually said what nobody else in leadership has had the courage to say. And of course damage control is hyper-drive so they can try to keep people from knowing the truth. It truly is a shame that great teachers are stuck with leaders who care more about money than teaching. I could go on and on…I just figured you might like to see how they are trying to spin this. I did find it interesting that they didn't claim it was taken out of context.

    24. Pingback: Real Reasons for “Back to School” Outrage | Conservative Principles Now

    25. Nick, Owensboro, KY says:

      Unions could care less about the kids. The kids don't pay union dues. As long as the money rolls in and they keep terrible teachers employed- the union is happy.

    26. Chris, St. Paul, MN says:

      And this surprises people how?

      This has been going on for years. We the people, or should I say we the sheeple, have followed along, towing the company line of "it's for the children."

      Well no more. The line in the sand is drawn. My kids are no longer part of our government's failed experiment.

      Just to make sure my words are clear, this is NOT about teachers. There are plenty of good teachers. (I assume that RDS of Tulsa falls into this category). This is about the failed corrupt system that we have in place under the guise of "education."

      The NEA and government run education is a experiment that needs to end.

      Go check out Alliance for the Separation of School & State for more information.

    27. Anne O'Neill says:

      Actually, Bob Chanin was quoted by a kid doing an oral history project (in off the cuff remarks made over lunch after the formal interview) that was posted on the web years ago that Chanin stated he didn't really believe in unions, unionism, or for that matter in representing their members. Since confronting Chanin about it directly I've noticed those remarks are no longer in the posted oral history. The student had remarked that in casual comments over lunch Chanin had said that he didn't really believe in unions or unionism or in representing their members for that matter, which even the student found disconcerting. But he sure doesn't have any problem with collecting dues.

      As for representing their members against unfairness in the workplace, my own CTA union president didn't even stand up for me when my supervisor openly admitted retaliating against me for asking for union assistance in obtaining a written job description (she changed her mind every week about what my actual duties were and I merely wished to do a good job and receive a fair evaluation)! This boss was unethical and abused her power. And who was she? The proud former "grievance chair" of the union and formerly a union representative on the bargaining committee with the district. The CTA union prez was actually going to let them fire me out of retaliation alone just for wanting to do a good job and to the best of my ability were it not for my own efforts to present my evidence to the union's executive level and make it clear to them that they'd be getting an unfair labor practice complaint for failing to represent (let alone being complicit in the retaliation) and that I'd be suing them in civil court. Only then did they do a half-ass job of representation. So much for the usefulness of paying union dues for fair treatment in the workplace.

    28. Anne O'Neill says:

      Frankly, since unions have jurisdiction over the employment of public employees in the course of their employment, and given the fact that they view themselves as "partners" with (often) corrupt, unethical administrators, far from being a protection for fair employment practices, unions are the greatest hindrance to such, as they are far more concerned with negotiating for the sake of positioning themselves in the bargaining process than they are in representing their dues-paying members or for that matter even guaranteeing democratic decision-making that is freely arrived at (my last CTA local did not even provide feasible means to communicate with fellow union members without violating the district email policy and therefore suppressed any real exchange among members that was not strictly choreographed by the existing (corrupt) leadership. I had to threaten a complaint to the state attorney general's office just to get a copy of the bylaws!

      Frankly speaking, as far as California is concerned, the due process clause for probationary employees contained in the Ed Code is sufficient, and the corrupt union officials only get in the way.

    29. Anne O'Neill says:

      The most apt criticism of unions today is not ideological criticism from without but justified criticism of corruption and lack of democracy from within.

    30. Anne O'Neill says:

      As far as an overhaul goes, the most cost-effective solution is from the top down. What do superintendents do that is so valuable that they earn more than the president of the U.S.A. or salaries that are equivalent to the CEO of a successful private corporation? And why do they always go away with severance packages that amount to nearly a half million $$ even when they quit or get fired? I worked for a school district that gave away $300,000 to their supt after she voluntarily quit her job (and a year and a half of free medical coverage for she and her hubby) even though even by contract (and those contracts often have such giveaways included and are approved by the board of education) they owed her nothing. The district promptly turned around and announced there was a freeze on spending for classroom supplies. After all, it was the end of 2008 and the economy had just tanked…

    31. Anne O'Neill says:

      And the greatest cause of bad teachers who do nothing to help kids learn is bad administrators who don’t do their job to offer mentoring and supervision. In fact, it is often the case that good teachers are let go for having anything to say about best practices (i.e., people who actually care about doing a good job enough to have a professional opinion and who exercise commitment to and concern for students) while people with “friends” in the district office who sit at their desk and do nothing while kids swing from the proverbial trees are promoted to a district curricular position. I’ve even heard administrators admit that a teacher is completely ineffective but do nothing about even so much as documenting it because frankly it’s a tough job and they’re not up to it. Instead, they get rid of good teachers over petty personal politics. Making administrators responsible for the actual performance of their school and firing them if they fail in their mission is the answer. And it’s easy because they’re all managerial level at-will employees anyway. Make the administrators do their jobs and within the bounds of ethical professional and managerial practices, and you won’t have to worrry about getting rid of bad teachers. No need to worry about the unions, as they are just an extension of corrupt and unethical management anyway and that needs to go.

    32. Kevin Probst says:

      When I was in public education here in Georgia, I join PAGE, Professional Association for Georgia Educators. I thought they were a good substitute for the NEA. What I discovered was they will only support you when the solution to your problem serves their agenda, if not, they will hang you out to dry. Don't expect any reform in NEA….the reigning political party needs this voting block in the elections to come to the goal is to keep their members fat and happy. No wonder homeschooling is a movement that is exploding in popularity.

    33. Karl says:

      As a retired public school teacher I am convinced that our only hope is to rescue our children from the public (government) schools and raise a godly generation. Please see "Call to Dunkirk" at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hRGZLSVph3A. Public schools cannot be redeemed. Saying we should not abandon them is like saying the passengers of the Titanic should have stayed aboard because the band was playing good music and the captain was a good man.

      If you are in West Virginia, please also see http://insectman.us/exodus-mandate-wv/index.htm.

    34. Pingback: that hero » Union first, Students second

    35. George H. Kubeck, St says:

      There is a difference between a professional teacher and a union teacher. A union teacher forces you to join and a professional teacher does not. I was a voluntary member of the N.E.A., CTA, and WTA (Westminster School District) for 5 years in 1964-68. For over a 100 years the NEA and CTA were professional teacher organizations and fought unionism in public education. Then they got competition from the American Federation of Teachers which is union and which I respect because they said they are a union.

      The N.E.A. and C.T.A. left me to become a union. By the way they got advice from community organizer Saul Alinsky on how to do it. This was a tragedy for education in America.

      We need to restore freedom of choice and integrity to the teaching profession. We also need to get the facts by Understanding Unionism in Public Education and what it has done to the teaching profession. I retired in 1986 and have fought unionism for decades.

      Industrial type unionism was never intended for public employess, least of all school teachers. Even Franklin Delano Roosevelt would turn over in his grave.

      In California we have the Rodda Act of 1975. This collective bargaining law for union teachers was approved by Governor Jerry Brown. It was previously vetoed by Governor Reagan.

      The Rodda Act has turned out to be a bonanza for the leftist control advocates. – muzzling, cloning and politicizing. If you are a conservative, libertarian, republican, christian or independent you could be in the closet with your views. That is wrong.

      Union principles are an albatross around a teacher's neck.

      Payroll deductions of dues should be allowed for the minority for they can become the majority by the votes yearly if necessary of independent common sense teachers. The education of our children has been short-changed with legalized unionism in public education. In February 2011, I posted some past letters on my blog George H. Kubeck.

    36. Pingback: National Education Association’s Top Priority: Power at Patriots for Freedom

    37. Maria Erlinda Martin says:

      Chanin is just being candid; he is just telling the truth about most unions in America, well along the line with what then SEIU President Andrew Stern said: "We're trying to use the power of persuasion. And if that doesn't work we're going to use the persuasion of power." “We know where you live, we know how you vote….”

      …All of which reflects the Marxist-Leninist thughish nature of Obama when advising: "If you bring a knife, we bring a gun…."

      Those are the –relatively small but very well organized, funded and active– hardcore-Left minority of ruffians now well entrenched in all walks of life (i.e., governance, the Democrat Party, the media, academia, entertainment, finances, industry, the intelligentsia, organized labor, organized "liberation-theology" religion, etc.) sinking America in the abyss of socialism.

    38. Pingback: Union compares lavish benefits to Jim Crow | LibertyLog

    39. Oriana V. Fallaci says:

      These right-wing responses are not only purely ideological, but off the mark. The reality is that toadyism and nepotism is alive and well in the public school system, and that is why they are failing us. Not to mention that the greatest enemy to organized labor is organized labor itself, which is usually bent on sweetheart deals, capitulating to the whims of management, and suppressing any real democratic decision-making at the local level.

      I've been far more damaged by current and former union "leaders" for standing up for my own employment rights and those of my colleagues than by "management," except in cases where such union officials aspire to or gain administrative positions themselves. The problem is further exacerbated by the ignorance far and wide on the part of teachers as to their own individual, professional, and collective employment rights and the contents of their own collective bargaining agreement that is meant to safeguard them. The result is that everyone runs and hides whenever there's a problem, or buries their head in the sand, hoping ti won't be them next.

      The unions are weakened by nature of their own internal lack of democracy, and for those concerned about where their dues money is going, they need to begin with instilling democratic procedures in their own local. The NEA and the AFT are really no different – both sell their members down the river at every opportunity, locally and in terms of state and national policy. And yes, both of them want your money. The bottom line is that without effective representation, we are left with toxic environments to work in, because that's what we have right now, and that's not good…

      The disturbing thing about Chanin is that he really doesn't believe in protecting teachers from a toxic work environment, and why should he – he's been a top union bureaucrat for decades. It's difficult enough teaching in today's public schools without the support of self-serving administrators. It's even more difficult with self-serving union bureaucrats who purport to be on your side but are not. It's impossible in at-will employment status where there need not even be a reason provided for getting rid of a good teacher. The only reason there are "bad" teachers out there is because of inept administration. The ideal is a cohesive, well-led learning community, where retaliation for 'asking too many questions' about best practices is not the modus operandi.

      As for the proverbial "do nothing" teacher, the author overlooks the policy of ADMINISTRATORS transferring teachers out of the classroom to "do nothing" in what have been dubbed "rubber rooms" as a means of retaliation – often for challenging administrative policies or asking too many questions about best practices in education.

      Finally, it's just unethical when unions solicit funding for nonpartisan local elections and then launder the money dollar-for-dollar with dues money which can legally be spent on such anyway, only to create a warchest fund for a predesignated national political party for partisan elections. It doesn't have to be that way – it can just as well be the case that members vote within their union for donations to national political parties to be allocated proportionally according to a vote of their members… and that the political parties be more than only two possible choices.

    Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Big Government Is NOT the Answer

    Your tax dollars are being spent on programs that we really don't need.

    I Agree I Disagree ×

    Get Heritage In Your Inbox — FREE!

    Heritage Foundation e-mails keep you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.