Sunday, February 7, 2016

UFT Chapter Leaders Had to Go to Members For Dues? It Happened More Recently Than You Think

There is much nervous chatter that the United Federation of Teachers eventually will have to go to its members for dues.

Here is a link to a news report from three decades ago, on how the UFT had to do just that, albeit as a residual penalty for a five day strike seven years earlier.

By Damon Stetson, in the New York Times,May 23, 1982:

U.F.T. STARTS DRIVE TO GATHER ITS DUES


Myra Entenberg, a slim and energetic teacher at Public School 116 on East 33d Street, is playing an important role in keeping the United Federation of Teachers afloat financially. She is one of the union's 1,000 chapter chairmen working to assure the payment of dues following the union's loss of the right to deduct them automatically from paychecks.
''I've been talking to my group before class, during my prep period, at lunch and after school,'' she said. ''If support of the union is not solid, I've been telling them, they'll have no bargaining agent, no contract, no working conditions or benefits and no machinery for handling grievances. But most of the teachers and paraprofessionals here in P.S. 116 want to keep paying their dues because they've been getting service. And so far about 80 percent have agreed to make individual payments.''
The union's $15 million-a-year dues collection problem stems from a penalty imposed by the New York State Public Employment Relations Board for the illegal, five-day strike of the city's teachers in 1975. The penalty called for the suspension of the right to have dues automatically deducted from paychecks for up to two years.
The union went to court immediately to challenge the ruling. But the issue dragged through the courts for nearly seven years until last month, when the State Court of Appeals upheld the suspension order, forcing the union to begin direct collection of dues from its 70,000 members this month. 'Pretty Devastating' Loss
Albert Shanker, president of the union, said that implementation of the penalty could not have come at a worse time and that the loss of dues checkoff was ''pretty devastating'' financially. He said the union is now fighting budget cuts by the Reagan Administration that could mean the loss of $180 million for schools here and with it the jobs of thousands of teachers and paraprofessionals. The state-aid picture, he said, is unclear. And now, he added, the union has to devote a lot of time, energy and money to collect dues. Will the union be able to survive?
''That depends on the response of our members,'' Mr. Shanker said. ''If everybody pays, the union will survive and function on all cylinders. Even better, we will have shown those who'd like to destroy us that they can't.
''On the other hand, if any substantial numbers of our members don't pay their dues, we could go under - and very quickly.'' The union, he pointed out, does not have cash reserves. He said all dues money was spent on services to members: on negotiations, grievances and arbitration, on legal services and on lobbying at City Hall, in the Legislature and in Congress. Other money is spent, he said, on pension workshops, publications, curriculum guides, special courses for licensure, for help in the classroom, and for public relations. Union Makes Cutbacks
As a result of the loss of dues checkoff, the federation has let some staff members go, canceled plans for new hiring and stopped contributions to such causes as the American Cancer Society, museums, Boy Scouts and various foundations.
To counter the impact, the union has mounted an aggressive and sophisticated drive to collect dues and maintain services. By this week, the first in which dues have not been deducted from paychecks by the Board of Education, the union said it had received commitments from 28,573 members for payment of dues during the extended penalty period. At 40 schools, teachers and paraprofessionals are 100 percent pledged to continue their dues payments, according to the union.
For the full New York Times article, click here.