Guest Blog: Friedrichs Is Missing Its Warning Label

By Tina Adams

Tina AdamsMy name is Tina Adams, and I am a school lunch lady in Mansfield, Ohio. Every school day for the past 30 years, I have cooked healthy meals and nutritious treats to feed hundreds of hungry kids. For many of my students, my food is the only food they eat all day. I keep my students’ bellies full so teachers can feed their minds.

I know if my kids are hungry, they aren’t learning. I also know who is eating his vegetables, and which kids need to watch their sugar because of diabetes or other dietary restrictions. From the time the bell rings in the morning to when school lets out in the afternoon, I’m the mom. I care for these kids like my own—and all I want is for them to be happy, healthy and ready to learn.

After more than three decades, my salary is little more than $20,000 a year. At times, I have had to work two, even three jobs, just to make ends meet. In fact, I earn so little money that my family falls under the federal poverty level and, ironically, we qualify for food stamps.

Earlier this year, our school district declared a fiscal emergency and, as a result, the administration closed down a neighborhood school, forcing more than 220 students to bus to other schools and laying off 107 teachers and support professionals, including me. Even while I wait to be recalled back to my students, I am continuing to pay my union membership dues because I know—and I see—how important it is for all educators to have a collective voice to speak up for our students.

In fact, the state legislature here in Ohio has tried—and failed—to strip public workers like me of our collective bargaining rights. When that didn’t work, the legislature tried to kill our unions by introducing laws with names like “Right to Work.” That’s like calling bologna an artisan meat. We can see beyond their fancy, misleading labels, and we know their motives: They want to weaken our unions so they can cut wages and slash benefits to feed their own bottom lines, even if it hurts our children and communities.

You don’t have to look far to see what happens when states outlaw fair share fees in an effort to weaken unions. The results have been lower wages and worse benefits for working people. In states without full union rights, the average worker makes $1,500 less per year, and workers are much less likely to have health insurance—let alone other benefits that help them support their families.

We need to rebuild the American Dream and our middle class, but there is a Supreme Court case, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, that hopes to dismantle it. The Friedrichs case, which will be heard by the Court next year, threatens to make it even harder for working people to negotiate for wages, benefits and public services. I have dedicated my whole life to helping my community, to feeding our children and helping them thrive in school, yet that won’t matter if the corporate special interests—who are pushing and bankrolling this case—are successful in convincing the Court. Friedrichs will make it even more difficult for workers to sustain their families, and that’s the goal of these wealthy CEOs who want to continue shifting the balance in their favor.

Like the foods that are bad for you, Friedrichs needs a warning label because if the U.S. Supreme Court decides against fair share fees, I won’t be able to help my students get what they need to succeed—and that’s just wrong.

13 Responses to “Guest Blog: Friedrichs Is Missing Its Warning Label”

  1. barb Armour

    Very well said,Tina. You have always been a great advocate for our students and members.

  2. Pretty

    You go girl!!!!!!!!! ☺

  3. Jeff Isom

    If unions are such a great thing, why do you have to have laws to force people into membership and paying dues? Shouldn’t people have the freedom to choose whether they want their dues to support issues they don’t believe in? Perhaps if unions such as the NEA and AFT took the beliefs of ALL their member into account they might actually grow in membership. I wouldn’t vote for Hillary for dog catcher, let alone president. But my money is being used to support her due to the fact the NEA is a cash cow for Democrats. And how many members from the other side see their money going to this criminal rather than Bernie?

    • LuAnn Swartzlander

      No, Jeff: it’s called “agency fee,” and if you disapprove of union political action, simply opt for that and then your money does NOT go to support candidates, etc. This is the whole point of agency fees: they enable the unions to keep functioning, providing money to provide collective bargaining, grievance, and other support ALL employees need, regardless of politics. Basic definitions; look ’em up.

    • Doc

      Dues money is not used for political purposes. Funds raised by NEA Political Action Committer (NEA PAC) go to support and endorse candidates and their causes.

  4. barb simonson

    I think you are getting carried away with Hillary and Bernie and missing the main point. If the middle class is criminalized for trying to unite for a decent living wage, how can we stand against the egregiously wealthy corporations and CEOs (esp health care CEOs) who feel we are nothing more than numbers or worse, pitiable slaves for their profits. The reason employees had a living wage (well, after you’ve been there a while) and decent health benefits at Krogers was that there was a union which, at least most of the time, cared a heck of a lot more than many CEOs about whether the employees (and arguably the bread and butter) were OK. As it was wisely said, take care of the employees and they will take care of the customers.

  5. Katherine Weiss

    First of all people are NOT forced to join plus they get benefits even when they don’t. Secondly I do believe that members should be polled before endorsing anyone and that their platforms be spelled out. I’m a Bernie supporter but haven’t heard much from him on public vs privatized education.

  6. Dixie Forcht

    It seems to me that the most egregious travesty in Ms. Adams’ story is the fact that she and other school support staff earn a pittance for their work in spite of the role of unions in salary negotiations. Her wages are so low that she qualifies for federal benefits.

    It won’t matter which Democrat is POTUS if Friedrichs is decided in favor of the corporate individual and as long as the moderate Republicans are held hostage by the Tea Party conservatives.

    Until we change the mindset of people to recognize that taxes are fees for services to which we all have access instead of penalties on wealth, some people will continue to vote against their own best interests in support of ideas from which they can never benefit.

  7. Janice Cole

    Candidates are vetted by regional and state political councils before any support is given to campaigns. Members may opt out of the Options Guaranteed funds. They are not required for NEA/ISTA membership. Due to federal regulations only said political funds may be used to support political candidates, not our NEA dues!

  8. Alen Ritchie

    Not only are educators not forced to join NEA, none of their dues money goes to support Hillary or any other candidate. Political CONTRIBUTIONS are separate from dues, and are completely voluntary.

  9. P.Delavega

    I applaud this lady for standing up for what she knows is right. I too work for the school system in tennessee as a bus driver. Nobody forced us to join NEA-I did that because i know how important education is for our students; it’s something that can never be taken or stolen away from them! I understand & know how important teachers are to our communities-I also know how important the union is to all of us. I’m appalled at the low wages the employees get working for a school system, noone can make a living wage w/the pay we are getting. I’m lucky, i have a spouse & i’m dedicated to my job, school system & the children & parents i work for every day. You can’t put a price on that, because it’s priceless.

  10. Cheryl Park

    I also was laidoff and not called back after 17 years of teaching due to an unfair evaluation and deficit elimination plan. The union said they couldn’t fight it because of the new laws in Michigan by our governor. I am also paying union dues while I wait to see if I will be called back next year. I’m wondering if my district will be around long enough for me to retire from it or if I need to look elsewhere.


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