The North Carolina Teachers Union Gets Schooled

In the wee hours of Thursday morning, Republicans in the North Carolina General Assembly successfully overrode Governor Bev “Let’s-Just-Skip-Elections” Perdue’s veto of a bill prohibiting the North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE) from using the state to collect the due payments the Democratic Party and teachers union have called foul.  Gov. Perdue said, “The Republicans in the General Assembly didn’t have the votes to get what they wanted legally. So, in the dark of night, they engaged in an unprecedented, unconstitutional power grab.” Of course, they did have the votes (the state constitution requiring 2/3 of both chambers to override a veto), and such action is hardly unprecedented (look at last year’s Congress to see just how productive Democrats can be in the middle of the night).

The NCAE occupies a funny place in North Carolina politics. Because North Carolina is a Right to Work state, the union is fairly small (especially when compared to its affiliates in Wisconsin and New Jersey), but they have been quite active lately. They vigorously opposed the budget passed out of the General Assembly and were quite involved in the recent elections for the Wake County School Board and the debate surrounding neighborhood schools.

In light of the NCAE’s political activities, it’s worth asking whether the state should act as a dues collector for the group. Considering that there are likely many taxpayers not associated with the NCAE who would object to many of the group’s activities and political positions, it’s worth considering what benefits the NCAE provides.  The state would then be obligated to be the union’s bill collector.

Indeed, the situation is quite curious.  The teachers union has promised to sue, claiming that the law somehow targets or singles out the group for punitive treatment. Yet, one is tempted to ask why the group feels so entitled to such privileged treatment. There are many groups and organizations across the state, from the Boy Scouts to the Knights of Columbus, that do not have access to the state’s payroll system for dues collection.  Rather than targeting the group for special treatment, the law actually puts the union on an equal standing with every other group in the state.  Some groups, such as the United Way, and the state affiliate of the SEIU, still have access to the payroll system, but these groups are the exception rather than the rule. So instead of arguing that they have an inherent right to automatic dues deductions, a more logical argument would push for other groups to not be allowed to access the state payroll system. Ultimately, this would be the most “fair” outcome for everyone involved.  Why should state resources be devoted to furthering the ends of private groups?  While automatic dues and donation deductions are convenient for the groups receiving the money, what is the benefit to the state?  Especially in the era of online bill pay, there’s really no need for the state to be involved in these transactions.  Why is North Carolina (along with many other states and their respective unions) involved with organizations like the NCAE at all?

Instead of recognizing that an overly generous special perk courtesy of the state has now come to an end, the NCAE is taking to the streets to demand the return of what is “rightfully” theirs. Instead of demanding that the state act as their personal dues collector, the union should recognize that very few other groups have this privilege and should not waste the state’s time and resources with ridiculous complaints.

Marc Seelinger Jr. // University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill // Chapel Hill, North Carolina // @marcseelinger

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