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Union Legislation Spreads across the U.S.
posted by: Alix | March 21, 2011, 08:09 PM   

The fight in Wisconsin is far from over. Last week, Dane County Judge Maryann Sumi issued a temporary restraining order barring the new law until she can rule whether Republicans violated Wisconsin's open meetings law. While this is a setback for the Wisconsin legislation, other states are following Governor Walker's lead and are in various stages of pushing labor reform legislation.

Alabama: Alabama recently passed legislation prohibiting the use of the state payroll system to transfer money to political organizations — specifically government unions. The Alabama Education Association contends this will cost them millions in lost dues and is challenging the law in court, as they will not be able to set up bank drafts until May. Since the Supreme Court already upheld a similar law in Idaho, the AEA's suit will most likely fail.

Idaho: The state legislature passed a comprehensive bill that affects Idaho teachers. It limits collective bargaining to just salary and benefits. The legislation focuses on the effectiveness of teachers - phasing out tenure and seniority-based layoffs and allowing elected school officials to have the power to reward good teachers and remove ineffective ones. It requires unions to prove that they represent a majority of teachers in each district for collective bargaining and that all bargaining must be done in a public fashion so that union members and the public are privy to negotiations. In addition to these reforms, PELI (Professional Education Liability Insurance) was enacted, requiring all school districts to inform teachers about providers of liability insurance, AAE's state chapter, Northwest Professional Educators, being one such provider.

Florida: Committees in both the state house and the state senate have taken important steps toward restoring a nonpartisan civil service. They have passed legislation prohibiting the state and local governments from collecting union dues through their payroll systems. If passed by the full legislature this would end a major taxpayer subsidy for union political fundraising. In addition, a teacher merit pay bill has passed and is awaiting Governor Scott's signature.

Kansas: The Kansas House of Representatives passed a paycheck protection bill. The legislation prohibits government unions from collecting money used for political purposes through the state payroll system. Instead, the union would have to persuade workers to write a separate check to cover political expenses. The legislation recently passed a state senate committee. In addition, there is an equal access bill that just passed the House State and Federal Affairs Committee (HB 2229) that would level the playing field for non-union organizations like AAE (and our Kansas chapter, the Kansas Association of American Educators) so that we would receive the same access to teachers that the KNEA currently receives. A similar law exists in Utah and has made for ideal conditions for our organization to expand in that state.

Oklahoma: A state house committee passed a bill allowing large cities to choose whether or not to give unions a monopoly over municipal work forces. The Oklahoma senate also passed a bill reforming binding arbitration. Like many other states, Oklahoma prohibits government employees from striking against the public. Instead binding arbitration resolves contract disputes. With arbitration, an outside official listens to both sides and hands down a binding contract, taking spending decisions out of the hands of elected officials. The reforms change the standards arbitrators use to make them fairer to taxpayers.

Ohio: By a one-vote margin, the Ohio senate passed a bill preventing government employees from striking against the public, requiring government employees to pay more of the cost of their benefits, and taking the "binding" out of binding arbitration. Contract disputes would go to arbitrators, but local elected officials would have the final say on whether or not to accept the proposed contract. The state house is currently conducting hearings on Senate Bill 5.

Nebraska: Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman and many prominent legislators are pushing for a complete overhaul of government unions. One proposal would make arbitrators' decisions purely advisory. Another ends binding arbitration altogether. Either proposal would return control over government to the voters and their elected representatives.

Tennessee: A state senate committee passed a bill restoring voter control over education policy. The legislation prohibits school districts from giving education unions a monopoly over their teaching workforces. A state house committee just passed a weaker version of the bill that gives school districts control over merit pay and firing decisions, but retains union influence over the wages and benefits taxpayers pay. A companion bill would stop subsidizing union fundraising with payroll deductions of dues.

Many thanks to James Sherk of the Heritage Foundation for compiling a comprehensive assessment of these state legislative actions. AAE is monitoring legislation that affects our members. Visit the AAE blog for the latest.

Will these laws make it easier for teachers to make informed decisions on where to spend their hard-earned dollars?

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