My name is Keith Courville and I am the Executive Director of the Associated Professional Educators of Louisiana (A+PEL). A+PEL was founded over 26 years ago and is the largest, non-union educators’ organization in Louisiana. We serve as an alternative to traditional teacher unions.
Recently, our Association conducted a statewide survey of union membership and dues. I am writing today out of concern for the many teachers who are being taken advantage of by unions. I am specifically concerned about three practices:
- The exclusion of non-union alternatives in collective bargaining contracts / district practices
- The high cost of union dues
- The use of membership dues for political purposes
First, even though Louisiana is a “Right to Work” state, many areas are under collective bargaining agreements which only allow for a single union to represent teachers and eliminate non-union alternatives as options for educators. Furthermore, there are some parishes that are not-collective bargaining districts, but maintain a close relationship with unions, to the point of allowing the deduction of union dues from teachers’ paychecks but not allowing that same option for our association.
Second, our survey found that union dues both vary by parish and are above market rates for membership services. Typical union dues reported to us this spring averaged around $400, with the highest dues reported as $649.20 in the City of Baker school district. This also begs the question why teachers in Baker are paying over $600, when the same union’s dues in East Baton Rouge Parish were reported as $540 a year. From our discussions with teachers, many felt that they were not informed or had little say in the increase of union dues. And what additional services are these teachers receiving that cost so much, especially when A+PEL is a flat rate of $199 a year in every parish?
Third, as part of my position with A+PEL, I speak with teachers that are unaware that their union dues are going to political activity. The fact that union dues go to more than just benefits and services is not widely known. Furthermore, union political activity is often directly juxtaposed to the political leanings of the area. For example, a teacher in Vermillion parish is likely voting for one candidate while their union dues are being used to support a rival candidate.
In short, unions are taking advantage of payroll deduction systems to exclude market-based competitors and non-union alternatives, raise rates without knowledge or consent of members, and engage in political activity in direct conflict with their members’ political views.
There will be opportunities this legislative session to eliminate how unions abuse certain systems for political purposes. I believe that “Paycheck Protection” deserves serious consideration from taxpayers, teachers, policymakers, and legislators. Such efforts would protect the interests of all teachers, even those under collective bargaining agreements.
Keith Courville is the Executive Director of Associated Professional Educators of Louisiana.