Major Stephen L. Godin thought he had retired from battle after logging over 2,000 hours during five overseas deployments as an F-4 Phantom pilot in the U.S. Marine Corps. However, thanks to forced unionism in Massachusetts, the fight continued for this honorable veteran.
Major Godin has taught Naval Junior ROTC at North High School in Worcester, Massachusetts, for 15 years without paying any kind of union fees. He chose not to join a union because the military pays half of his salary, as well as his medical and dental insurance. He simply had no use or desire to have any part in a union. However, he was given an ultimatum from school officials last month to start paying union fees or lose his job.
The letter included a deadline for his termination if he refused to join the union or begin paying a $500 union fee. A state law in Massachusetts requires all public employees, including teachers, to join unions as a condition of employment or to pay an agency fee. State employees are charged this agency fee to cover the costs of collective bargaining for the unions, even if they are not union members themselves.In response to the letter, Major Godin repeatedly asked the teacher’s union for arbitration, but has yet to receive an answer. For Major Godin, it is the principle of the matter, not the $500 fee he is being charged, that motivates him:
I just want to save my job here…I’ve been doing this for 15 years. Nobody has ever told me to join the union or be terminated… It’s the principle of the matter. I think they’re trying to extort money from me. They do nothing for me… Neither the union nor the Worcester Public Schools have allowed me to make that argument. It’s just the union that wants my money.
Republican state Senator Richard R. Tisei led the fight at the state capital by attaching an amendment to a spending bill in order to protect Major Godin’s job. “This is the right thing to do,” Tisei said.
Major Godin first received support from local officials in Worcester. Mayor Joseph O’Brien supported a school committee’s attempt to protect ROTC teachers from the unions. The superintendent of Worcester public schools, Melinda J. Boone, has refused to give in to union demands and has defended the 20 year marine veteran:
Major Godin has been a valuable member of the Worcester public schools for many years…He has impacted the lives of students through leadership training and personal development in the JROTC program.
Major Godin was vindicated last week in his fight against powerful teacher unions. Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed the supplemental bill that included Senator Tisei’s amendment that exempts Junior ROTC instructors from paying union fees in the state of Massachusetts. As a result of the bill, Major Godin gets to keep his job.
Unions are intensifying their influential grip on our education system and are the chief reason highly successful school choice programs like the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, face opposition from Congress.
It is clear that teacher unions care more about wielding their power and the collective bargaining process than they do about the quality of our children’s education. This was made painfully evident by former National Education Association General Counsel Bob Chanin in his farewell address to a throng of cheering union members:
“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 millions 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-out 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.”
But not everyone is so “willing” to pay union dues. For teachers living in forced-unionism states, they have no option but to pay the exorbitant dues. Teacher unions are falling out of favor with just about everyone who understands that their objectives are not aligned with the best interests of children, but instead, with maintaining their own power.
James Hall is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at the Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: http://www.heritage.org/about/departments/ylp.cfm