Local: Education

Maryland teachers union wants nonmembers to pay fee

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Local,Maryland,Education,Andy Brownfield

Maryland's largest teachers union wants school employees who aren't members of a union to pay union fees.

Del. Sheila Hixson, D-Montgomery County, will introduce a bill on behalf of the Maryland State Education Association to require nonunion educators to pay a so-called fair share fee to unions equivalent to about 68 percent of the local dues.

Under Maryland law, local teachers unions are required to negotiate contracts that cover all educators, whether or not they are members of the union. They also must represent nonunion educators in grievances.

Association spokesman Adam Mendelson said the bill wouldn't force people to join the union, just require them to help pay for the union benefits they receive.

"All school employees benefit from those services, but there's not a companion or complementary law for fair share that requires all employees to contribute to those benefits they enjoy," Mendelson said.

Ten local school boards already require nonunion educators to pay union fees: Montgomery, Prince George's, Allegany, Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Calvert, Charles, Garrett and Howard counties, as well as Baltimore City. Those jurisdictions pay the fee to local, state and national unions.

Mendelson said educators who are already covered under a fair share agreement will continue to pay their current fees and would not have to pay twice. He said the fee would amount to less than 1 percent of an educator's salary -- about $20 per paycheck.

The union and its local affiliates represent about 80 percent of Maryland's school staff, or about 70,000 people.

Mendleson said because a large number of jurisdictions already charge fair share fees, fewer than 10 percent of educators would be affected.

The union says the fees would not go toward union political activities.

But opponents say the measure is union bullying to force membership.

"My argument is every professional organization worth its salt earns its dues and earns membership, and the union leadership is imposing a tax on people who want to teach and padding their own pockets," said Sen. David Brinkley, R-Frederick and Carroll counties.

All nonunion state employees and state troopers already have to pay a fair share fee under a 2009 law passed by the General Assembly. The law was pushed by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union but did not cover Maryland's teachers.

abrownfield@washingtonexaminer.com

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Andy Brownfield

Examiner Staff Writer
The Washington Examiner