Christie claim about union dues for nonmembers of NJEA garners more than 100 comments

The New Jersey Education Association collects representation fees from nonmembers. Above, NJEA President Barbara Keshishian addresses a crowd during a May 2010 protest.
The New Jersey Education Association collects representation fees from nonmembers. Above, NJEA President Barbara Keshishian addresses a crowd during a May 2010 protest.

Chris Christie, teachers and union dues – the Truth-O-Meter hit the trifecta Thursday with a fact-check on all three topics that has generated more than 100 comments at

PolitiFact New Jersey rated True a March 23 statement by the governor about the cost of opting out of membership in the New Jersey Education Association. Christie discussed the issue last month while at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University in California.

"To get out of the union, you pay 85 percent of $731," Christie told his audience. "Then you're out of the union, but you've got to pay it every year, also required by statute. That’s called a representation fee. The idea is that you’re benefiting from the representation even if you don’t wanna be in the union.

"So, this reminds me, for people of my generation, like the ‘Hotel California,’" the governor continued, before citing the lyrics to the classic Eagles hit. "‘You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.’"

PolitiFact New Jersey found that Christie correctly stated nonmembers of the NJEA must pay representation fees, but the number he cited as the charge assessed by the union was slightly off. The governor’s overall point, however, was clear: a teacher doesn’t have to be a member of the union, but a fee still must be paid.

Readers had plenty to say on the topic, with comments ranging from the union’s alleged political activities to the intent behind the governor’s statement and why the fee is necessary.

"More hate directed at teachers in New Jersey," Jamesc2929 wrote in part of his comments. "If anyone thinks that this is not having a direct affect on how the public views its teachers, they are crazy. Christie wants the middle class to buy into his message of making teachers and education the enemy, and in that way he can strip the education budget, and take more control of what is taught when and how."

Others questioned the representation fee’s purpose.

"What benefit is there to actually being a member of the NJEA and paying the full membership fee?" asked poster cchuba. "Why wouldn't all of the teachers opt to drop out if they still get represented and could get a 15% discount on their fee."

"Teachers should not be forced into paying fees to an organization that spends money on items the teachers have no control over," Jack300 wrote.

As PolitiFact New Jersey pointed out in its original story, other unions face similar circumstances.

"It is not just the NJEA," Ironman27 commented. "My union is the same way pay 85% or 100%. If I had a choice it would be zero."

Two other readers noted the benefits of paying the union’s fees.

"There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with this policy," said Jammsta. "When their contract expires its the union who negotiates a new one. They reap the benefits of the NJEA so they should pay them EVEN if they dont want to be part of the union. Christie is simply trying to be inflammatory."

Added WakeupNJ: "I know I receive a great benefit from the NJEA....especially the professional development that they offer to teachers at NO COST to the taxpayers. These ideas are usually implemented in my classroom and are a benefit to the students."

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