The Confused “Choice” Messages of OEA

Teachers in Ohio should continue to be anti-choice.  That message dominated the agenda of the Ohio Education Association’s Spring Representative Assembly held at Vets Memorial in Columbus on May 10 and 11, where the theme was “Our Guiding Values.”

They weren’t talking about saving lives by avoiding abortion. OEA isn’t budging in its tireless campaign against babies in utero. (In the wake of revelations about abortionist Kermit Gosnell’s house of abortion horrors, one would think the 1,300 delegates might pause and reconsider. But no, sadly, Gosnell-supporting attitudes were expressed over the weekend by some OEA delegates.)

The union’s anti-choice drive in question concerns membership. OEA is pushing back against “Right-to-Work” legislation at the Ohio General Assembly with talking points about “lies,” “corporate greed,” workplace safety, etc.  It is uncertain if this legislation has support to pass in the near term, since Gov. Kasich feels it may hurt his re-election . Still, enough momentum at the grassroots level may propel it forward whether GOP brass leads on this or plays obstacle politics once again [read on OCR: “Right-to-Work?  Try ‘Duty-to-Legislate’”].

Strategic timing has its advantages, but the longer Right-to-Work is delayed, the longer teachers in most schools are compelled to fork over bucks to OEA simply to retain employment. And in this case, OEA is vehemently anti-choice. How does any organization justify forcing people to pay $700 or more in annual dues, or a lower so-called “fair share” amount, for the privilege of supporting radical leftist political action that ends up endangering children?

Among the alarmist talking points against Right-to-Work are claims that it’s a “power grab” of multinational “corporate interests.” Sounds like a concern for the UAW, and perhaps central to union solidarity, but nonsensical in the education field. How many multinationals own Ohio public schools?

No, Right-to-Work is actually about freedom and choice for individual teachers and school staff. But let’s not let facts interfere with the interests of “workers,” comrade.

Then there’s the old standby matter of justice. It’s only “fair” for people to be compelled to join an out-of-control political machine funding leftist politics. After all, shouldn’t teachers pay others to negotiate wages and benefits for them? Apparently those who instruct children would never want to sit down with a principal or local school board to be evaluated and compensated for one’s own abilities and performance. What an outrageous idea!  This is what professionals do, not “workers.”

It also begs an obvious question: if OEA does a good job at collective bargaining, wouldn’t an educator be willing to join up? On the other hand, if OEA needs a bit of accountability, or is providing a service that I as a professional can do on my own, or is funding activities that violate my values, isn’t it “justice” to let me make my own decisions?

Evidently, that kind of choice is only reserved for deciding whether a future student will survive mom’s pregnancy [read on OCR: “One Heartbeat Away”].

But back to OEA’s funding concerns. In its hand-wringing over membership, OEA is backing a bill in the Ohio Senate to allow graduate assistants and part-time faculty in higher education to unionize. Just take a moment to picture adding the influence of teachers’ unions into the already stifling climate of the politically correct college campus. “Unfortunately your daughter Megan doesn’t have the credits to graduate because her women’s studies professor went on strike.” Lovely.

Yes, membership is a growing issue for OEA, since more and more members have learned they have other options, like forming their own local school unions, where their “guiding values” might not include support for abortion and same sex marriage, or campaign contributions to Marxist-leaning Democrats.

Another option enabled by recent lawsuits is to choose “religious accommodation” if a union member disagrees with, again, OEA political activities. But few know about this option and requirements are still a bit cumbersome.

Here’s a thought: OEA could probably gain members or retain those they have if they ceased all political activities. Why not return to a focus on professional development? Why be a union at all?

Another lament at the OEA is the Kasich budget. Many conservatives think it’s still rather lavish, but not the OEA. Cuts for teachers, cuts for education—what will become of our schools if teachers don’t retain those generous salary and benefits packages surpassing comparable private sector workers?

Let’s play this out. Sam and Susie Citizens, thoughtful conservatives, pay a portion of their hard-earned dollars in taxes to the government. Some of those Ohio taxes hire teachers, who are forced in most cases to fork over a portion to the OEA–which then goes to help fund the campaigns of leftists like Barack Obama and Sherrod Brown, no friends to conservatives. Sam and Susie have no “choice” under present Ohio law.

So OEA is essentially a tax-funded group with no diversity of political viewpoint. Isn’t this discrimination? Why should taxpayers continue to fund the OEA?

Oh, and on that “choice” issue: stalwart demonstrators outside Vets Memorial, including two former OEA delegates, held signs lamenting the unions’ pro-abortion policies.  OEA’s Resolution I-3 [2010-2011] for “reproductive freedom” allows for abortion at any time during pregnancy.  Numerous attempts by pro-life OEA delegates to have the words “reproductive freedom” struck from the OEA resolution document have failed.

One delegate admitted clear frustration to demonstrators outside the union meeting: “If you try to bring these things out, the majority just shouts you down,” she said. Another said, “I agree with you, but bringing this out would cause division in the union.”

This is the OEA: a union that currently supports no choice for teachers, no choice for babies, no choice for taxpayers.  Who wouldn’t want to join that?


Featured-ColumnistLinda Harvey holds a B.A. in English from Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, and has done graduate work at Miami, Ohio State University, and Trinity Lutheran Seminary. She is the wife of Tom Harvey and the mother of two children. They live in Columbus, Ohio.


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