Maryland lawmakers continued the state's move towards organized labor this week.
Legislators passed a bill that will require public school teachers to pay “fair share” union fees to the Maryland State Educator Association. Union leaders say the fees will be used to cover the cost of contract negotiations and grievance representations.
Currently, all Maryland teachers receive union-negotiated contracts. Additionally, if a teacher, union member or not, files a grievance case, state law requires the union to pay all associated fees.
MSEA spokesman Adam Mendelson says it’s not fair that all teachers receive the benefits of union work while only some pay union fees. He added that the new bill does not force anyone to join the MSEA. “The bill does not force anyone to join the association,” Mendelson said. “It forces a choice about if you join or not.”
The bill will require all teachers to pay roughly 1% of their bi-weekly pay checks to the union. The bill passed in the Maryland General Assembly on Thursday, and will be sent to Governor Martin O’Malley early next week. The governor is expected to sign the bill.
The law is an extension of a 2009 law that required all state employees except teachers to pay union fees. The MSEA has said that collected fees will not go towards political causes.
While many in the state support the bill, others are not so enthusiastic.
State Sen. David Brinkley (R) calls the fee a forced tax. “If the representation is so exceptional, then everybody would join. I just don’t buy it. It’s a political payback that has nothing substantial to do with the merits of education,” he said.
Greg Mourad, vice president of the Right to Work Committee, believes the bill represents the wrong kind of progress for Maryland workers. “The right to work has been on the march for several decades, “ he said. “And Maryland is moving in the wrong direction in relation to the rest of America.”
Mourad was equally critical of recent pro-union decisions in Indiana and Michigan.
Sean Johnson, director of legislative and legal affairs for the Maryland State Teachers Association, reiterated that the bill is about fairness and consistency. He said that right now the state has “a patchwork of bills with no consistency,” and that the new bill will ensure everyone pays for union services they already receive.