As I recently explained in a column for the Baltimore Sun, the Maryland State Education Association (MSEA) is salivating at the chance to force all teachers — members or not — to pay union dues. Not surprising because MSEA represents nearly 80 percent of Maryland teachers.
The union claims educators owe their “fair share” because it must represent non-union members in collective bargaining and grievances. MSEA also argues, in the name of equity, since other teachers in Maryland public schools already are forced to pay the union a service fee all the others should.
At the moment, 10 of Maryland’s 24 school districts require non-union teachers to pay union dues. House Bill 667 would expand the provision to cover all public school employees in the state.
As troubling as it is to force any worker to pay a private association for services they don’t want…it gets worse in this case. In Maryland and most other states, taxpayers pay government employees to represent non-union members in negotiations and grievances. The little-known practice is called union release time.
Through the state’s Public Information Act, the Competitive Enterprise Institute obtained union release-time records for nine of the 10 school districts that already require forced union dues (below the post are most the original public information records). In total, the nine districts awarded 973.8 days of union release time, which is equal to nearly 5.5 full school years taken up each year for performance of union duties.
Unions don’t want you to know about official time because it’s political poison for them. They also don’t want you to know that it has an antidote: Maryland has a constitutional provision equally shrouded in anonymity that prohibits such public financial assistance to private parties. The anti-subsidy amendment is commonly referred to as the “Gift Clause.” Maryland Constitution, Article III, § 34 in part reads, “The credit of the State shall not in any manner be given, or loaned to, or in aid of any individual association or corporation.”
In Arizona, the Goldwater Institute (pro-free-market public policy organization) used its state’s “Gift Clause” to end the Phoenix Law Enforcement Associations union release time. In the Maricopa County Superior Court decision the judge stated “Such activities [union release time] promote the private interests of PLEA and, as a result, do not constitute public purposes,” ruled Judge Katherine Cooper. “It is a subsidy and subject to gift clause analysis.” The Goldwater Institute’s successful gift clause stopped what amounted to a $1 million subsidy to the union. (For more on the Goldwater lawsuit visit here and here)
Residents in Maryland should take similar action, they already have the tool. These bans were intended to protect taxpayer interests by erecting a wall of separation between government and private economic interests. All government expenditures should further public purposes and provide tangible benefits to states or municipalities. Union release time on the other hand is simply a hand out to unions.
Clearly, allowing government employees to perform union activities instead of their government duties violates the principles of the “Gift Clause” in Maryland’s constitution and commonsense.
Below are the Public Information Records obtained from the Maryland Public School Districts: