by Dr. Terry Stoops
Director of the Center for Effective Education, John Locke Foundation
In his latest column, “Five Common Teachers Union Arguments — That Rely on Half-Truths,” Mike Antonucci tackles some of the questionable claims that teacher union leaders make.
The first one hits close to home: “NEA and AFT affiliates in right-to-work states are not labor unions.” So, is the N.C. Association of Educators (NCAE) a union? Antonucci says yes.
This statement is true insofar as the Internal Revenue Service defines a labor organization as “an association of workers who have combined to protect or promote their interests by bargaining collectively with their employers to secure better working conditions, wages, and similar benefits.” If you cannot bargain collectively you cannot be a union, the reasoning goes.
National Education Association affiliates in states like Georgia, Oklahoma, and Tennessee refer to themselves as professional associations. They avoid the word “union” because unions are generally unpopular in those states.
In many right-to-work states, NEA and American Federation of Teachers affiliates have gained tax-exempt status by successfully applying as 501(c)(6) organizations, which primarily include business leagues, chambers of commerce, and “associations of persons having some common business interest.”
Claiming that affiliates aren’t unions is a half-truth because NEA and AFT both have unified dues structures. That is, you cannot join the Oklahoma Education Association without also joining NEA, which is without question a labor union, according to the IRS, the U.S. Department of Labor, and itself.
Every working teacher and education employee who belongs to an NEA or AFT affiliate belongs to a labor union. Their dues money goes to a labor union. They elect their union representatives, who elect the leadership. A labor union provides them with money and staff for services. Their state affiliate may call itself a business league or a professional association, but that’s a distinction without a difference.
Antonucci’s take on the four remaining claims is also an interesting read.