California Teachers Empowerment Network FAQ

We at CTEN are teachers, just like you. As fellow educators we value and respect you and the work you do. We want to give you the information available about union membership and other educational issues, not just the information your unions provide, so that you can make informed decisions. That's our only goal.

CTEN's Frequently Asked Questions:

Is CTEN an anti-union organization?

No, we're not. We are progressive in the belief that unions should be responsive and accountable to their membership.

Will joining CTEN cost me any money?


How do I know CTEN's information is credible?

We are here to provide reliable information from various sources, including those outside the unions, to help you make informed decisions. We have no reason to mislead you.

Is CTEN's information for all teachers?

Yes. The information provided here should be of value to all of California 's teachers, regardless of union affiliation.

Do you have a political agenda?

No. We are a group of fellow teachers who have recognized that there is an information gap that short circuits the democratic process within the teachers unions. We aim to fill that gap. Our members represent a diversity of political viewpoints and backgrounds.

Which union option should I exercise - remain a member, become an agency fee payer, or become a religious objector?

CTEN is not an advocacy group so we can't answer that question. Only you can decide whether or not leaving the union is the right thing to do. We're here to make sure you have as much information as possible, so you can make an informed choice.

What is the difference between an agency fee payer and a religious/conscientious objector?

There are two ways to resign from the union. You can become a religious/conscientious objector or an agency fee payer.

To become a religious objector, you must demonstrate a sincere religious objection to union membership. Church membership is not a requirement. Under federal law (Title VII), you will not be required to pay any money at all to the union. You are, however, required to pay an amount equal to union dues to a union-approved charity. This requirement is included in contract language to prevent union members from using this provision to opt out of the union merely to save money. You will need to write a letter to your local union stating your sincere religious beliefs.  Please contact the National Right to Work 800-336-3600 for free legal advice.

The other option you have is that of an agency fee payer. If your employer recognizes a union as an exclusive bargaining agent, the union is legally required to represent you whether or not you remain a union member . In order to pay the union for such representation, you are required by law to pay an "agency fee." An agency fee is a percentage of dues that the union determines is the amount it costs the union to represent you before your employer in the areas of bargaining, contract administration, and grievances.

Am I allowed to be a member of only my local bargaining union?

No. Many teachers would be happy to support their local union but not necessarily their state and national affiliates. However, NEA/CTA and AFT/CFT don't allow that option. Since the early 1970's, the national and state unions have required union members to be members at all levels-local, state, and national. If your local union is a member of the state union, then so are you.

What are some of the reasons why teachers quit the union?

Every teacher has his or her own reasons for leaving the union. Some think the union dues are unreasonable, especially when compared to the dues of other unions. Some have political disagreements with union positions, and some have religious objections to union stances. And some just don't like being told they have no choice, that they have to be a paying member of the union as a condition of their employment!

What are the pros and cons of quitting the union?

If you are a religious objector, you'll have the satisfaction of knowing that none of your money will go to the union at all, but you will have to donate an amount equal to full union dues to a union-approved charity. If you become an agency fee payer, you'll receive about 1/3 of your union dues back each year. You'll also have the peace of mind that comes with knowing you're doing what, in your opinion, is the right thing to do. Your union is still required to represent you and your interests (negotiations, grievances, etc.), and the hundreds of dollars a year that you'll continue to pay in "agency fees" are payment for these services and representation.

There are costs associated with leaving the union, however. You will not be allowed to hold union office. You will not have any voting rights in the union - probably not even on your own contract! You will lose the union's liability coverage should you ever get sued, and if you need legal representation, the union will not pay for it. However, the dues money refunded to agency fee payers is more than enough to secure other legal coverage, which is frequently superior to the union coverage. For example, see here. or

Should I decide to do so, what steps do I have to take in order to quit the union?

If you decide to quit the union for religious/conscientious reasons, call the National Right to Work Foundation at 800-336-3600.

If you decide to quit the union for other reasons and opt to become an agency fee payer, go to (Our "Do you know... link).

I feel that if I quit the union, I'll be "alone". Are there other groups or organizations that can help me?

Of course there are, and you're at the web site of one of them! CTEN doesn't just give information that union members can use, we also provide support, camaraderie, bulletins, and updates to our members.

Association of American Educators ( is a professional organization. It's not a union, but among other benefits it does provide liability protection for teachers who opt out of the union.

Christian Educators Association International ( is another professional organization which has a faith-based focus.

I would like to stay in the union and try to change things from within. How can I do that?

NEA members can run in local union elections to participate in local, state or national representative bodies. There, they can speak out on issues before union decisions are made and ask questions that will hold union leaders more accountable to members.


Download the CTEN brochure by clicking here.

Can you use a few extra hundred dollars a year? You teach in a state where you are required to pay union dues, even if you don’t want to be a member. However, you are not required to pay money that goes toward political activities. Go to our "Do you know?" page to learn how you can receive your rebate.

Copyright 2014 California Teachers Empowerment Network Phone: 1- 888-290-8471

- California Teachers Empowerment Network is a non-profit, non-union information resource for professional teachers.
We are here to provide you with all the information you need to make informed decisions.