Home Editorials Teachers Unions! – Barry Koplen

Teachers Unions! – Barry Koplen

Although I’d made it clear that I didn’t want to join the teachers union at Wayne Aspinall Jr.-Sr. High in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, the President of the union pursued me. When he offered to take me to lunch at a fancy restaurant instead of the school cafeteria, I readily accepted, knowing I’d have to listen to his pitch. Again.

My reasons for not wanting to join were clear; the Union was asking for more money for the teachers without requiring teachers to give more to the students. To me, it was obvious that many of the students needed help; I expressed my concern that the school was about to explode.

But I didn’t mention that I couldn’t afford the Union’s dues that would have been taken out of my check each month. (That had been done at a previous teaching job automatically and without my permission.) Nor could I afford the conch stew he (well, the Union) was paying for that day.

That’s why I agreed with the Supreme Court’s decision regarding involuntary Union dues:


USA Today  21 hours ago · The U.S. Supreme Court ruled public employees, including teachers, cannot be required to pay union dues, even if they’re benefiting from its services

To me, it seemed a long time coming. After all, I’d taught in St. Thomas almost forty years ago. My opposition had formed that long ago, especially after what happened at Wayne Aspinall just before the Union President and I finished our leisurely lunch. Since the restaurant was only a mile from the school, we weren’t concerned about being back in time for a change in classes. When we left the restaurant, we had shared a friendly truce.

But, once at the school, everything changed.

A gang of the older kids, well-known troublemakers, had started a riot to which the police had just responded. After order was finally restored, the school was closed for a week for the teachers and the administration to discuss what needed to be done to prevent future violence and to improve student’s education.

Nonetheless, the Union remained entrenched. I finished that year and ended my teaching career in St. Thomas.

I have reason to think about that often when I watch the rants of Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers. Her claims to have “understood” what students needed during the pandemic led to a tragic failure of the Union to encourage teachers to remain in schools during the Covid crisis.

Profound educational deficits resulted; Weingarten never apologized. Instead, she has chosen to bark about student loan repayment, something so many of us have spent years repaying. Weingarten reminds me that very little has changed regarding Teachers’ Union wherever they are.