June 23-29 has been designated the first-ever National Employee Freedom Week. “National Employee Freedom Week is a national effort to inform union employees of the freedom they have regarding opting out of union membership and making the decision about union membership that’s best for them.” The Independence Institute is one of more than 40 organizations across the United States to join in celebrating the occasion. The following post is part of a series highlighting the issue’s impact in Colorado.
One thing we can definitely celebrate this National Employee Freedom Week is the fact that Colorado teachers do have membership options — including the right to join nothing at all. But in many cases, a teacher can’t always get out of the union when she wants to, or needs to, do so.
Look at the case of Ronda Reinhardt, a Denver Public Schools teacher who had to wait nearly a full year to opt out of her union membership. Why? Because DPS negotiated with the Denver Classroom Teachers Association that teachers can only stop their membership and dues payments between November 1 and November 15 — by going down to the union office during the (school) day and filling out some forms.
DPS is the only district with a union membership opt-out window during that time period, but many other districts have them. Plenty only allow teachers to quit during the busy first weeks of the school year (September and/or October) — like Callie Stockton and her Poudre colleagues have to deal with — while a few set up the deadline during the quiet summer months when some educators are on vacation.
Does any of this make sense? Maybe from a private organization’s administrative point of view, but it certainly doesn’t respect teachers union members as customers.
That’s why the last two years have seen legislative attempts to bring fairness back to the process, balancing the scales so educators can opt in or out of union membership at any time. During this past session, Senate Bill 17 was shot down at its first hearing. But earlier, in 2012, House Bill 1333 (which Tim Farmer from the Professional Association of Colorado Educators talks about in the video clip below) made it through one house before dying in a Senate committee:
Maybe something will change before the second annual National Employee Freedom Week. Don’t hold your breath for too long.