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Utah Bill Hammering Unions Advances
posted by: Alix | February 24, 2011, 10:22 PM   

This week, Utah House Bill 183 cleared several legislative hurdles after years of union push back. The House advanced a bill Wednesday that would prohibit school districts from paying teachers on leave from the classroom for union duties as well as prohibit school district money contributing to union leader salaries.

For the past two years, similar bills have failed to win passage, but the House voted 46-22 on Wednesday to move HB183 to the Senate.

"We should not be using state dollars to compensate teachers on association leave," said bill sponsor and assistant principal of a local middle school Rep. Keith Grover, R-Provo, said, "The issue is transparency and the issue is ethics."

Lawmakers across the state expressed support for the once union-blocked bill. Rep. Carl Wimmer said, "It's actually taxpayer dollars that are going to pay the union rep who they may disagree with and many times they do disagree with."

Currently, three Utah school systems, Salt Lake, Granite and Davis, pay a portion of their local union presidents' salaries, though the employees are on leave from teaching, and the union pays the rest of their salaries according to contract agreements.

The state's teachers union, the Utah Education Association (UEA), has spoken in opposition of the bill claiming leaders devote significant time to activities that benefit their districts, such as speaking for all teachers on district committees and helping districts and teachers work through issues.

While the practice of using taxpayer funds to support union staffers may seem ridiculous, this is just one of many examples of union strongholds using their influence under the radar for more money and power.

In Wisconsin, for example, the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC) embeds in its bargaining contracts a requirement that school districts must purchase health insurance through the WEA Trust, an insurance company owned by the teachers union. Talk about a gravy train.

According to a 2005 study by the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, using updated numbers from last year, the state would save up to $68 million a year if employees could switch alternative health plans. The WEAC, of course, is against the change as the switch threatens losing the millions once funneled directly to the WEAC through this trust.

There are examples across the country of local unions using loophole policies and line items in contracts to funnel even more money into union pockets. While the union in Wisconsin would have you believe this is about worker rights, one does not have to dig deep to understand that this is about money, plain and simple.

What do you think of taxpayer funds going to support union staffers and health trusts?
Comment below.

Comments (2)Add Comment
Teachers are more than capable of speaking for themselves
written by Ronnie, Arkansas, February 25, 2011

I agree with Charity. I am from the right to work state of Arkansas and chose to join a state affiliate of AAE many years ago. I have seen over the years that school boards and administrators are more than willing to sit down and discuss issues with teachers who care about helping education not some heavy weight union rep who gets paid the big bucks to try to protect the status quo at all costs. School districts want innovative ideas and solutions to their problems which many times requires compromises for everyone. I feel that good ideas and solutions come from teaching professionals and not from unions. It is my hope that all teachers can one day decide not to join a union if they so choose and will be able to speak for themselves instead of be forced to pay a union to speak for them even though the teacher may not agree with the union.
written by Charity Smith - Utah, February 24, 2011

I have been a teacher, in Utah, frustrated with the union for years. I have watched teachers fund the union, unknowingly support political campaigns they do NOT agree with. I can not believe it has taken so long to vote against paying union reps with district money, money so desperately needed to pay teacher salaries. I have watched as programs have been cut from schools, including my own, as a result of these cutbacks. I cringe to think that some of these programs could have been saved if this money would have been routed through more productive vessels, not to union reps.

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