Furthermore, 95 percent of K-12 teachers don’t fully understand their rights with respect to union membership. The misconceptions are widespread:
- Nearly 1 in 3 teachers (32%) falsely believes that if they are not a member of the union, the negotiated agreement does not apply to them.
- More than 1 in 6 teachers (18%) falsely believes they will lose their health insurance benefits negotiated by the union if they are not a member of the union.
- Nearly one quarter (23%) of teachers falsely believe they will lose their tenure protection if they are not a union member.
- Out of nine true/false questions asked directly relating to the core functions of a union, not one question received higher than 88 percent accuracy. Only 5 percent of teachers were able to answer every True/False question accurately.
Likely due to high misconceptions about what it means to leave a union and low awareness of the Janus decision, the vast majority of teachers have not reconsidered their union membership – only 22 percent reconsidered membership within the past year. Of that 22 percent, almost 3 in 10 (28%) said they were inclined to leave or did leave union membership.
“Union leaders may claim their members have opted to renew after the Janus decision, but that is very misleading,” said Colin Sharkey, Executive Director of the Association of American Educators, a supporter of the Teacher Freedom Project. “In truth most teachers still do not know their rights and aren’t aware they can reconsider their union membership. Even if they do, it is still too difficult to exercise those rights and far too many teachers are misinformed about what happens after they leave the union.”
Once informed about their rights, more teachers say the Janus decision will have a positive impact on the teaching profession than a negative one.
Furthermore, 84 percent believe teachers should be able to join or leave a union at any time. The opt-out windows often imposed by unions the limit the time frame for educators to make decisions about union membership was not addressed in Janus.
Special needs teacher Mr. Greg Kuehn from Park Rapids Area School District in Minnesota, reacted to the poll results, saying, “The vast majority of teachers at my school have no idea that there is another choice when it comes to union membership. When they are presented with the choice, they are shocked and in disbelief that it’s true and they are still unsure and afraid. I think it’s going to take a long time before all teachers know about Janus and feel comfortable making a choice.”
Elementary school STEM teacher Mr. Daniel Elo from North St. Paul added, “I’m not surprised to see many teachers have misconceptions when it comes to knowing their rights. My coworkers want to focus on their students, not their own rights. That said, our profession is stronger when we have informed teachers who will advocate for what they believe with their influence and dollars.”
The poll also revealed some interesting findings about teacher attitudes toward unions:
- Roughly 3 in 10 teachers believe unions are too concerned with protecting ineffective teachers (32%) and collecting union dues (30%).
- 44 percent of teachers says teacher unions are not concerned enough with restoring respect to the profession.
- 1 in 5 teachers in unionized workplaces would prefer to belong to only a local union.
All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1,003 US teachers. Fieldwork was undertaken between May 29 – June 9, 2019. The poll was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all US teachers (aged 18+).
About Teacher Freedom
The Teacher Freedom Project is an online resource and community for educators across the country who want to know and understand their rights and options about union and professional association membership. Membership should be informed, voluntary, and active. We seek to inform educators of their rights and help them pursue the option that best meets their beliefs, values, budget, and career aspirations. Learn more at teacherfreedom.org.
# # #