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Teacher Shuns Union After Attending Leadership Course
posted by: Cindy Omlin | November 09, 2017, 05:40 PM   


Mr. Hank Norquist, NWPE member and middle school science teacher from Chehalis, WA, shares the following experience with his teacher union involvement:

During the summer of 2003, while I was an active, dues paying member of the Chehalis Education Association (CEA) and WEA, I expressed a desire to run for the local vice president position. Several CEA officers suggested that I attend the WEA-sponsored “How to be an Effective President” course.& I agreed and attended a week long course that included grievance representation. The presenter was a lawyer from a bank of about a dozen WEA attorneys.

hank norquistI asked the presenter about the legal staff’s representation of member concerns. She informed me and fellow attendees that it was the job of the WEA legal staff to represent the interests of the union, not the rank and file teachers who make up the union. That, she said, is the responsibility of local union personnel (who are not lawyers). She even went so far as to use then WEA President Charles Hasse as an example. She said words to the effect of, “We would not represent Mr. Hasse unless it is in the best interest of or helpful to the union.” Her comments gave me the distinct impression that the WEA is neither inclined nor interested in assisting teachers who need legal/grievance assistance unless their cases advance the union’s mission and priorities.

The other thing that struck me during the conduct of the entire course was the distinct and blatant anti-conservative/anti-Republican tone of instruction and discussion. When social issues were discussed, only liberal views were acknowledged as worthy or meritorious. Conservative views were loudly and openly ridiculed. Some discussions and presentations actually encouraged attendees to engage in bashing of members and beliefs opposed to the union’s goals and core values in order to further “union views.”

My attendance at this WEA-sponsored course resulted in my decision to seek options to WEA membership. Because mandatory union dues as a condition of employment is enshrined in Washington state law, I had few options. To my great relief, I eventually discovered Northwest Professional Educators (NWPE). Both the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and NWPE have empowered me with the knowledge of and assistance with exercising my rights regarding union membership. Additionally, NWPE has provided me the legal protection and support I need to be an independent professional educator focused on students as my highest priority.

With the help of these organizations, I became a nonunion agency fee payer and have exercised my right to object to union fees for nonrepresentation activity such as politics. Each year, I receive a rebate for those dues used for purposes not related to representation after sending in my objection/challenge letter.

I have been an agency fee payer and member of NWPE for about 14 years. My conscience is clear and I have the security and peace of mind that NWPE will provide me with legal representation on workplace or contractual concerns without bias or conflicts of interest. Teachers deserve options. I have found the one that I can trust and that best fits my professional and personal beliefs.


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