Major Teachers Union With “Toilet Paper” Contract at Risk of Decertification Under the Right-to-Work Law

A massive teachers union stands at the crossroads of decertification possibly due to their increased focus on political activities and alliances at the expense of the union’s interests.

Political Focus Costs Union

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The United Teachers of Dade (UTD) in Miami-Dade County, Florida, is facing potential decertification for not hitting the 60 percent membership mark needed under a new right-to-work law.

Shifting Dynamics

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This legislation, supported by Governor Ron DeSantis and the state’s Republican party and endorsed by the Freedom Foundation, aims to dismantle UTD and introduce an alternate labor group. 

“A Union of Professionals” 

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The official website describes the United Teachers of Dade as “a union of professionals who work to advance the cause of public education. We educate students, empower our members, and work with parents and the community to build a stronger Miami.” 

Still Not Enough

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The Miami Herald reported that the United Teachers of Dade (UTD) acknowledged in an exclusive statement on Tuesday that, despite gaining over 800 new members in five months—a remarkable increase—an independent audit confirmed they still fell short of the required union membership threshold. 

“Toilet Paper” or Union Contract?

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Teacher Shawn Beightol expressed his frustration about the contract, saying, “We have a piece of paper that’s called a contract that’s really not worth much more than toilet paper. When Miami-Dade Education Coalition succeeds at replacing the United Teachers of Dade, you’re going to see your dues drop.”

Did UTD Dig Its Own Grave?

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UTD is pushing hard to reclaim its lost membership, offering incentives and collecting “showing of interest cards” to reach its membership target. Meanwhile, Allison Beattie from the Freedom Foundation criticizes UTD for putting political activities and alliances first, suggesting that a stronger focus on their members’ needs could have averted this situation.

A Self-Made Crisis

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“If United Teachers of Dade spent half as much time paying attention to their members’ interests as they have been pushing a political agenda with Randi Weingarten and running for office with [failed Democratic gubernatorial candidate] Charlie Crist, they probably wouldn’t even be in this position,” Beattie said.

Wasted Efforts

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Beattie went on to emphasize how UTD’s misplaced priorities resulted in wasted efforts, noting, “Now, they’ve spent the last few months scrambling to get their unsatisfied customers back, and they couldn’t do it.”

Accusations Fly

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According to the Freedom Foundation, UTD quickly identified MDEC as a potential threat and immediately started targeting the Freedom Foundation to inform teachers about their rights. Simultaneously, UTD was accused of “spreading misinformation” about MDEC being run by the Freedom Foundation.

$100 Incentive Strategy

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The Freedom Foundation continued, stating, “The UTD also offered $100 gift cards to members who signed up more teachers, and kicked the substitute teaching population out of the bargaining unit altogether, thereby lowering the number to meet the 60 percent threshold. In the final days before the report deadline, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) flew in dozens of staffers to boost sign-up efforts, to no avail.”

Reality Check

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UTD President Karla Hernández-Mats emphasized the challenge and ambitious nature of meeting the target within the timeframe, noting, “We barely have five months to move the entire bargaining unit and union over to a new form of dues membership collection, It is a heavy, heavy lift. We’re talking about over 13,000 members.”

Diverse Education Family

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UTD has affiliations with several prominent organizations, including the Florida Education Association/United (FEA/United), the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT).

The United Teachers of Dade (UTD) serves as the sole bargaining representative for the Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS), encompassing around 25,150 full and part-time educators, office workers, school support staff, and paraprofessionals.

Uncertain Road Ahead

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The ticking clock and the distant membership target put Miami-Dade County at a crossroads. Failure to achieve this goal could significantly impact the union’s future and even reshape the educational framework.  

Only time will reveal the full extent of these complications.

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