School districts still have illegal provisions in their contracts.

The RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity has localized a study from the Mackinac Center finding that some school districts in Rhode Island continue to have provisions in their teacher contracts that don’t reflect the right of teachers to work without joining the union and requiring express consent to enroll them:

According to the Mackinac Center in Michigan, one of nation’s top legal and public policy experts when it comes to government unions, Rhode Island’s rate of non-compliance with the Janus ruling looks to be among the highest in the country. The extent to which blatantly anti-Janus-constitutional provisions still exist in many teacher union Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBA) is alarming.

An initial review of about three dozen collective bargaining agreements with local school districts in Rhode Island reveals an alarming number -ten (more than 1 in 4) – that were signed or put into effect after the Janus ruling, contained dues or fees mandate provisions that clearly defy the Supreme Court’s ruling … provisions that are legally unenforceable.

Entrenched interests, like teachers unions, play a marginal game, meaning that they have a strong incentive to make it marginally more difficult not to join the union at every step.  If office staff inadvertently (“Oops, we forgot not to sign you up!”) adds a teacher to the union list and automatically withdraws dues, some percentage of teachers who didn’t want to join will simply live with it.  If any of those teachers notice and have to talk to the principal, then the superintendent, then the local union head, more will give up the quest at each step.

Contrast that situation with one in which teachers have to actively pay their union dues separately from their paychecks.  The unions would fight such a policy with existential vigor because they know that would reverse the game from creating marginal disincentives to creating marginal incentives.

That said, the noncompliant contracts in Rhode Island might not be making a big difference.  When teachers hear that they don’t have to join the union, they are at first skeptical and then distrustful that they won’t lose anything by leaving.  Unionization has been built into their understanding of their jobs for a long time.

School districts’ highly paid lawyers should be tracking changes in the law that require compliance modifications to contracts when they come up for negotiation.  This is standard practice.  But absent that proactive diligence, the districts have had no reason to change contract language, because most have probably had no teachers challenge them.  When the office staff deducts union dues from a non-union teacher’s check at the beginning of every year, it really could be because she or he is the only one and they’re used to simply clicking “select all.”

This is what needs to change, foremost.  Those of us who see government unions as a corruptive force of evil in our country need to do the work of educating teachers about their rights.


Featured image by the National Cancer Institute on Unsplash.

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