WAYNE - The faculty of a charter school in suburban Philadelphia voted last week against joining the Pennsylvania State Education Association despite an aggressive organizing campaign waged by the union.
The Agora Cyber Charter School in Wayne was the target of what has been described as an intense organizing effort by the largest teachers' union in Pennsylvania. Some of the faculty, staff and parents of Agora organized a counter-campaign.
A website called SaveAgora.org was launched with the assistance of a nonprofit called the Commonwealth Foundation. The website served "to educate fellow employees about how unionizing will damage their freedom to teach and their students' freedom to learn..."
The Commonwealth Foundation is a free market think tank in Pennsylvania. It had been approached by a group of Agora teachers who wanted help to counteract the "well-orchestrated effort from the PSEA to force teachers to give the union a portion of their paycheck - whether they wanted union representation or not." CF consented to the request.
SaveAgora.org informed potential union members about certain aspects of unionizing. The website also mentioned that a full-time teacher pays $654 a year in dues to the Pennsylvania State Education Association, part of which goes to the National Education Association. It also noted that even if one is not a union member, one must pay a "fair share fee" to the union. This, it said, averages 70 percent of regular dues or about $450 a year.
Although schools do not have to mandate fair share fees as part of an employment contract, this was a concession the PSEA wanted from Agora. The sample collective bargaining agreement union officials touted includes a fair share fee provision
However, if Pennsylvania had a right-to-work law the nonmember teachers would not have to pay a "fair share fee" said Anthony Riedel, spokesman for the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, an organization that advocates workers' rights not to join unions.
Neither PSEA representatives nor Agora officials were available for comment.