Amidst the controversy surrounding recent legislation that would have affected the North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE), people are regrettably misinformed. Gov. Bev Perdue’s veto of legislation banning automatic dues payments from NCAE members’ paychecks exposed several prevailing misconceptions.
First, the NCAE has certain self-interests. The NCAE is a lobbying group representing the welfare of its members and public education employees in North Carolina. In addition, they operate as the local lobby of the National Education Association (NEA), a national public education union. The NEA’s political advocacy includes contributions to campaigns against property tax limits in Maine and fighting federal level pension reform for private sector workers.
Secondly, eliminating salary deductions does not constitute a purely partisan attack on North Carolina’s younger generation and NCAE membership as Perdue recently claimed. Certainly a degree of cynicism toward the Republican legislature is understandable–the NCAE is a Democratic constituent group, as evidenced by their $170,650 in contributions to Democratic candidates in 2010. Given their and the NEA’s political track record, it is hard to blame state Republicans even as they set themselves up to be the targets of a partisan attack. But let’s step back and look at the issue regardless of party: why should any political lobby’s dues-collection be administered by a political body representing all the state’s citizens?
It is even harder to take Perdue, the Democratic Party and the NCAE seriously when they use the word ‘partisan’ to decry the bill. Pot meet kettle. The NCAE and NEA contributed $1.8 million dollars to Gov. Perdue’s 2008 campaign.
These misconceptions contribute to and originate from the excessive rhetoric on behalf of both the NCAE and liberal activists. As witnessed in Wisconsin, the terms of the debate have been misleading. Wisconsin’s legislative battle was painted as a blanket ban on collective bargaining rights for all state employees when, in fact, it excluded vital services (police, firemen, etc.) and only stripped those affected state unions of the right to bargain collectively for benefits such as pensions and healthcare. Salaries would not have been impacted.
To clarify, the NCAE is not a union because their association includes managerial employees; they do not hold National Labor Relations Board elections and have no official enforcement mechanism for members. So why do their protests sound similar to those of unions in Wisconsin?
In reality, the NCAE and NEA benefit from any rule that streamlines, co-ops, or mandates economic and political contributions to their organizations. If the NCAE is as much the bastion of educational advancement as it purports to be, those salary deductions would be immediately paid to the association voluntarily.
And there lies the issue. Rather than asking how executive and administrative compensation is spent at the NCAE and requiring the association to prove to its own members that said dues are good value for their money, the debate is framed as if it is about workers’ rights. While NCAE executives’ compensation increased by a rate twice the size of average teacher compensation between 2006 and 2009, the aforementioned misconceptions frame the debate in their terms. Their chief message: NCAE members and the North Carolina public education system need more money.
The truth is that card check legislation, salary deductions, mandatory dues and other binding association or union policies are there to serve that group as a political unit, not the rights of individual workers. And that is completely fine, so long as decisions over dues payments are left entirely to individuals, paid directly and transparently. It would be nice if the NCAE was honest about its self-interest and refrained from the political objectification of children.
William Bejan is a summer fellow at the Civitas Institute in Raleigh (nccivitas.org)
This op-ed originally appeared in the Wake Weekly and Lincoln Tribune the week of June 27-July 2