Should teachers have the right to opt out of unions without paying fees? Most people—and, perhaps surprisingly, most teachers—say yes.
That's according to Education Next's 2015 poll, which surveys attitudes on a variety of education issues.
Respondents were given the following prompt:
In some states, all teachers must pay fees for union representation even if they choose not to join the union. Some say that all teachers should have to contribute to the union because they all get the pay and benefits the union negotiates with the school board. Others say teachers should have the freedom to choose whether or not to pay the union. Do you support or oppose requiring all teachers to pay these fees even if they do not join the union?
Opposition to mandatory fees won out 43 percent to 34 percent, with another 23 percent saying they had no opinion. EdNext noted that when the neutral position was excluded, 56 percent of people with an opinion on the issue believe dues payment should be voluntary.
But it wasn't just the public at large expressing this view. A whopping 50 percent of teachers said non-union members shouldn't have to pay fees; 38 percent disagreed, and 13 percent had no opinion. Many people might have expected teachers—who are often thought to be pro-union in large numbers—to come out against a position that undercuts the political power of unions, but these results suggest that voluntary union membership is actually even more popular among teachers than it is among non-teachers.
It's not just non-unionized teachers who think this; unionized teachers made up almost half the sample, and only 52 percent of them said agency fees should be mandatory.
This should come as good news for Rebecca Friedrichs, the California teacher who sued her union for forcing her to pay dues. She is contesting mandatory fees on freedom of speech grounds; unions take advantage of the fees they collect to fund partisan political causes, and obligating teachers to pay them violates the First Amendment, she has argued. Friedrichs' case is headed to the Supreme Court, where she is likely to find five justices who are amenable to her argument.
If the Court rules in favor of Friedrichs, union leaders like Randi Weingarten will no doubt decry the decision as a rightwing attack on organized labor. But that view is not shared by the majority of teachers—and even many unionized teachers think Friedrichs is right.
Reason TV recently interviewed Friedrichs about the case. Watch that video here.