Teachers unions will get their day in court Tuesday as they seek an emergency injunction against a law that would change how union dues are deducted. Senate Enrolled Act 251 was signed into law earlier this year, but takes effect July 1.
The new state law adds extra steps for teachers to have union dues automatically deducted from their paychecks, effectively requiring them to opt in each summer. It includes an annual authorization form teachers have to sign which says they know they can decline union membership and its required dues. Unions say it violates constitutional rights to free speech and association.
Suzy Lebo of the Avon Federation of Teachers said it’s unfair only teachers unions are targeted by the new policy.
“So I’m not sure what the purpose of this is other than trying to limit or make it harder for teachers to join the teachers union,” Lebo said.
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Lebo said her local union has changed due collections this month – collecting dues twice in June to also cover July – to avoid disobeying the new law when it takes effect. She said lawmakers made it drastically harder to connect with teachers since the reauthorization period happens while most of them are on summer vacation.
"They’re either ignorant about how school payroll works or it was to be [intentionally] detrimental," Lebo said.
In a court filing, attorneys for the state argue that’s not the case. They say there are alternatives to paying dues that don’t involve signing the statement, and payroll deductions are a privilege for state employees, not a right.
Lawyers contend the timing of union contracts is irrelevant to the question posed before the court about constitutional rights.
"As to the timing, it runs parallel to the end of the state budget biennium and the expiration of the collective bargaining agreements that the unions and school corporations are parties to," court documents said. "The collective bargaining agreement of each of the Plaintiffs expires on June 30, 2021."
The hearing is scheduled before Senior United States District Judge Sarah Evans Barker.