Tribute, Turf Tax and the Teachers Unions

Tribute, Turf Tax and the Teachers Unions

Before the Reformation, it was common for Europeans to pay Tribute to the Church. People across Europe would have to give something to Rome as a way of submitting to, or showing allegiance to, the church.

Tribute in another form came about in the U.S. the 1920s when organized crime carved up cities and claimed certain areas as their turf. Any legitimate person who wanted to start a business in a gang’s territory would have to pay a street or turf tax to the thugs just to do business.

While these concepts may seem alien to many of us in the West today, people here in our own country that toil away in non-right-to-work states must pay Tribute — in the form of union dues — if they want to be employed in certain professions.

Teachers in 28 states and Washington D.C. fall into this pay-to-play category. While this type of Tribute goes pretty much unchallenged, every now and then something comes up that you’d think would enrage those who are being victimized.

According to Barbara Martinez in The Wall Street Journal, “Randi Weingarten, the former head of the New York City teachers’ union, received $194,188 last year from the United Federation of Teachers for unused sick days and vacation time accrued before she left to become president of the American Federation of Teachers, boosting her total compensation to more than $600,000 for 2010.” (But then again, 80,000 teachers in New York fork over $125.6 million dollars every year with nary a complaint, so maybe an obscene payout to a union boss shouldn’t faze them.)

Also, according to the WSJ story, when Michael Mulgrew took over the UFT presidency last year, one of his first meetings “was held at the Brazilian steakhouse Churrascaria Tribeca and included 150 people. The bill was $6,400.”

That union leaders don’t think twice about living extravagantly at their members’ expense is typical of the nature of unionism in the U.S. today. It is especially hypocritical because these same union leaders love to rail against corporate greed and bemoan the plight of the underpaid teacher.

According to the New York Post, “Not many companies allow employees to cash out unused vacation days; even fewer pay out unused sick time on top of that.

“But, obviously, the world of organized labor is different.

“It’s gratifying to realize that the largesse isn’t coming directly from taxpayers for a change. But we wonder how UFT rank-and-filers feel about the boodle coming from their dues.”

Judging by their silence, the rank-and-filers don’t seem to care. To be sure, some don’t mind their forced status. But for the others, is it apathy? Ignorance? Resignation? Fear?


The Reformation was the beginning of the end of Tribute to Rome. The FBI did much to minimize organized crime and let people run their businesses without having to pay off the mob. But the unions and its leaders like Randi Weingarten seem to thrive — their hubris unrestrained by a compliant workforce and spineless legislators.

About the author: Larry Sand is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan,non-political group dedicated to providing teachers with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues.

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