Jim, music teacher

“It’s important for teachers to find the association that best represents them and what they believe education is all about.”

As a music teacher at a public elementary school, Jim spends his days teaching folk songs like “Hot Cross Buns,” “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” and “Frère Jacques.” As his students advance, they move onto songs on the radio or other choruses the kids know.

He’s been teaching music for 22 years and loves his job. He says it’s been getting harder and harder to make sure music is prioritized, but he fights for as much music time as possible so that his students have the opportunity to learn to play the violin, trumpet, or flute.

When he was first approached to join the union, Jim simply wasn’t interested. He didn’t begrudge his colleagues who joined, but he knew it just wasn’t for him. “Heavy pressure, people asking you, talking to you, pulling you out of the lunch room,” Jim recounts the recruitment effort, “I was just never comfortable.” Like many teachers, Jim would have considered joining only the local union, but didn’t want to belong to the state or national union. He was told this wasn’t an option.

About five years ago, Jim was forced to start paying an “agency fee” to the union, essentially a large portion of dues for being a non-member. “I was very disappointed… I did ask if there’s any way out of it. I wrote a letter, and there was no response.”

Recently, the Supreme Court ruled that teachers like Jim are no longer forced to pay a union if they aren’t a member. Now that teachers are free to choose, Jim recommends: “Take a look at the pros and cons for joining the union, for what the union does, what other options are out there.”