Opinion

OPINION: Are Teacher Unions The Biggest Threat To Freedom?

Chicago Teachers Union strike Reuters/John Gress

Lance Izumi Pacific Research Institute

What is the biggest threat to freedom in our country?  According to an eye-opening new book by educator Rebecca Friedrichs, who gained fame as the named plaintiff in a U.S. Supreme Court case challenging forced fees from teachers to unions, teacher unions are thwarting freedom on a massive scale.

In her must-read book “Standing Up to Goliath,” Friedrichs, writes, “Throughout my twenty-eight years as a teacher forced to fund unions, and two decades as a parent with children in union-controlled public schools, I have witnessed union forces bully and intimidate teachers, parents, and children.”

“Among other things,” she says, “I’ve watched as union leaders have drowned out debate at school board meetings, pushed for sexually explicit sex education lessons, groomed students and teachers to become social justice warriors, and used indefensible intimidation tactics to bring down anyone who refused to cower to the control of state and national unions.”

Reading the tales of outrageous union tactics in Friedrichs’ book will shock you.

For example, special education teacher Kelly Stephenson served as an officer of a local affiliate of the Maryland State Education Association.

Because of the unresponsiveness of the state union to the complaints of local members regarding a variety of matters, Stephenson and her fellow officers decided to sever ties with the MSEA and create an independent local union.  The state union responded with brass-knuckle tactics.

Union members, said Stephenson, broke into their local office and changed the locks, and also broke into filing cabinets and littered the office with paper.  The local officers had to take the state union to court to get the rights back to their office.

When Stephenson tried to visit schools in her district to talk to teachers, she said the union “stole my schedule of schools I was going to address.”  The union “would go visit those schools before my scheduled visit and fill [teachers] with nothing but hatred for me, so when I came to visit, teachers would not even listen to me.”

And then there was the physical intimidation.

“They followed me to my home,” Stephenson noted, and one day “someone followed me all day, and they used fear to try to sway people from not leaving them.”

After experiencing this beat-down by the state union, Stephenson concluded that if you didn’t do what the union wanted, “they make your life a living hell.”  “I swear it’s like a Mafia or something,” she said.  “They’re just scary people.”

It’s not just independent-minded teachers that are on the receiving end of union bullyboy tactics.  Friedrichs details the pummeling that unions deliver to children, parents, school board members, and community members.

For the unions, everyone must conform and toe their special-interest line.  “It’s all about unions,” observed Stephenson, “No one can propose an idea that’s different than the union’s.”

And the ideas that the unions push are not limited to collective bargaining issues, but extend into hot-button political and cultural issues that have nothing to do with employment conditions or student achievement.

Friedrichs says, “the unions have incessantly worked to indoctrinate us in their ‘progressive’ ideology,” and after years of being beaten down, “most teachers just shut their mouths and obey so they won’t be the ones isolated and harangued.”

No wonder then that our public schools look more like indoctrination centers than centers of real learning.

When teachers whispered to Friedrichs that they supported her Supreme Court case, she said, “They would typically look up at the ceiling and ask, ‘Is there a camera or microphone in this room?’”

The bottom line, writes Friedrichs: “If we want freedom for our kids, families, and teachers, we’re going to have to fight for it.”  “Things have gotten so bad in our schools,” she says, that people from all parties admit, “Education is the civil rights issue of our day.”

Authoritarianism in America must be defeated, and the most important battles in this war will be fought in our schools.  The outcome will determine our nation’s future, which is why Standing Up to Goliath is one of the most important books you will ever read.

Lance Izumi is Koret Senior Fellow in education studies and senior director of the Center for Education at the nonprofit Pacific Research Institute.


The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.