No, government employees don’t need to join a union, or even pay so-called “agency fees,” as a condition of employment, and a sixth-grade school teacher in Connecticut (“The Constitution State”) wants them to know it.
That used to be the case – until the 2018 Supreme Court decision in Janus v. AFSCME, which ruled that:
- Government employees don’t have to be union members,
- Public-sector unions can no longer collect fees from non-members,
- Government employees can’t be automatically enrolled in a union, but instead must opt-in, and
- Collective bargaining contracts cover non-members, as well, giving them all the benefits of any collective bargaining agreement negotiated by the union.
Still, not everyone who has, or is looking for, a public-sector job is aware of the freedoms granted by the Supreme Court decision. And unions aren’t eager for current and potential government employees to find out about them.
But, Constitution State Educators, an award-winning private Facebook page founded by Connecticut teacher Michael Costanza, is.
“We want to correct the misconceptions that a lot of teachers have, [due] largely in part to the unions misleading them about their Janus rights,” Costanza explains in an interview with The Yankee Institute.
“We want to spread the word to as many teachers and other school employees as possible in Connecticut about their Janus rights to choose whether or not to belong to the unions,” adds Costanza, a sixth-grade teacher who spent the bulk of his career forced to financially support a union, against his wishes.
In January of this year, Costanza launched Constitution State Educators on Facebook, in order to correct the misinformation and misconceptions about union membership that have lingered since the Janus decision.
While the Facebook group was initially created to provide educational online resources and Zoom sessions to teachers in Connecticut, it now seeks to connect with as many of the nation’s public employees as possible.
In particular, as the Constitution State Educators website explains, government employees are no longer forced to subsidize a union that has a political agenda – such as policies and mandates regarding COVID – that they don’t support:
“If you are tired of the union using your dues to attack choice and freedom and to peddle a political agenda, this page is for you. If you have already found or want to explore alternatives to the union, organizations that will respect you and protect you at work, this group is for you.”
In his home state, the Connecticut Education Association (CEA) union loses up to $1,000 every time a teacher refuses to join, or drops out of the union, Costanza explains in a CT Mirror commentary.
As a result, he says, unions like the CEA, make it easy to join, but difficult to leave. In the case of CEA, union members have only one month each year during which they can opt out – and there are obstacles even then, Costanza says in an opinion piece for Inside Investigator:
“CEA boasts in a video on its website that new members can sign up today, paperless, from any device, receive a welcome email within 20 minutes, and have dues prorated. Teachers wishing to leave? Sorry, please snail-mail a letter to Hartford in August or else it’s another year of payroll deductions.”
And, as National Review’s Jack Fowler explains, Connecticut’s teachers’ unions are continuing to try to illegitimately collect dues by ignoring the Supreme Court’s ruling:
“[U]nion bosses across the country are trying to defend schemes they use to undermine public sector workers’ Janus rights, including so-called ‘maintenance of membership’ provisions. In a Foundation-backed case before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Savas v. California Statewide Law Enforcement Agency (CSLEA), several California lifeguards are challenging CSLEA union officials’ continued dues seizures from the lifeguards’ paychecks even after they ended their union memberships.”
“This High Court’s unambiguous declaration has had little resonance in the Constitution State, where the clarity of Alito’s directive has been obfuscated and mugged by union practices,” Fowler writes, observing that the CEA and its local affiliates “have treated Janus compliance with contempt.”
Thus, Constitution State Educators was created to combat and expose misinformation about, and the pitfalls of, union membership.
And, on November 12, Constitution State Educators was honored at the Yankee Institute’s Champions of Freedom Gala 2022, receiving the Helen Krieble Unsung Hero Award for Connecticut residents who have worked tenaciously to advance the principles of individual liberty and limited government.
In his acceptance speech, Costanza explained how teachers’ unions, like the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), no longer represent the interests of teachers, but instead seek to advance a radical, divisive, political and cultural agenda:
“Rather than sticking to our simple, common interests, they spend teachers’ hard-earned dollars on the most impossibly, unimaginably divisive political issues.
“And, rather than insulate us from today’s over-the-top culture wars, they use us, the teachers, as political cover to wage their own culture wars. Rather than keep politics out of my classroom, they play politics with the paychecks of teachers everywhere.”
“They’re freeloading off our teachers’ dues for the exclusive benefit of one political party” – even though teachers have a wide range of cultural backgrounds and political views, Costanza said.
“Enough is enough,” and so Constitution State Educators was created to inform teachers about their ability to free themselves from unions that don’t represent them, Costanza said.