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Antonucci: What does it take to resign from a California teachers union?

Mike Antonucci | July 17, 2019

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Mike Antonucci’s Union Report appears weekly at LA School Report.

When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June 2018 that public employees were no longer required to financially support a union, it seemed pretty straightforward. If you weren’t a member, you no longer had to pay agency fees, and if you were a member, you had the freedom to resign.

But things were not that simple. Public employee unions will enroll you anytime of year, and even prorate your dues if you join in the middle of the year. Resigning is a different matter altogether. Most unions, including CFT and the California Teachers Association, have time windows in which you must submit your resignation. For most teachers, it’s around this time of year.

CFT requires members to send written notice to their local not less than 30 days and not more than 45 days before the anniversary date of signing the membership form. For CTA, it is between 30 and 60 days before that anniversary.

Resignation windows are being challenged in court as an undue restriction of employees’ free speech rights. The unions will defend the practice vigorously, but their latest membership application forms have added a disclaimer that had not appeared before.

It appears alone and in bold print as the last line before the signature on the CTA form, which I believe is being used by all National Education Association affiliates in former agency fee states.

The disclaimer reads: “I understand that this agreement is voluntary and is not a condition of employment and that I have the legal right not to sign this agreement.”

The authorization for payroll deduction of dues continues in force until the teacher resigns or leaves her job.

If a member decides to resign and revoke her dues authorization, and it is within the time window, she must send a written notice via U.S. Mail to CTA Member Services at the union’s headquarters in Burlingame, according to the application form.

But wait. According to a CTA handbook distributed to local affiliates throughout the state, a resigning member must make a drop request in writing and deliver it by U.S. Mail or in person to the local’s headquarters. The letter must contain a formal request to drop membership and an original signature.

If the teacher fulfills those requirements, the process isn’t really over. CTA instructs local officers to “identify the most compelling person to hold a one-on-one conversation with the member. Conversation can be done by any leader or member. The benefits of collective bargaining and advocacy should be discussed, and all the member benefits that will be lost should be shared.”

If the teacher still decides to drop, the local then forwards the request to Burlingame, although it is allowed to do so via e-mail — a method not available to the member herself.

Only then does CTA process the request and notify the teacher’s school district to stop withholding union dues.

The membership form does not specify what the current dues are, only that the member must pay what is required for membership in the local, CTA and NEA, and that this amount is “subject to periodic change by the associations’ governing bodies.”

For the 2019-20 school year, NEA dues for teachers and other certificated professionals are $196 and the CTA dues are $720. So the minimum payment for any California teacher is $916. Local dues vary widely, with some small locals charging none at all. Teachers in large districts such as Los Angeles and San Diego will have a total annual dues bill of $1,100 or more. First-year teachers and 30-year veterans pay the same amount.

Many teachers will remain in the union because they support its mission. Many more will remain out of inertia. Those who want to leave should be able to do so with a minimum of fuss. It’s their right.

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