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Union Battles in the States
posted by: Alix | March 28, 2011, 04:18 PM   

It has been a busy few months for AAE and our state affiliates. More than 12 states are in various stages of advancing laws that deal with curbing union power, advancing education reform, and ending forced unionism. The unions have proved that regardless of whether or not they win battles in the legislature, they will take the fight to the courts and potential ballot initiatives in the next election cycle.

Alabama: In Alabama, the state NEA affiliate, AEA, has been fighting back against a bill, signed into law by outgoing Governor Riley in December that prevents associations from collecting dues for political activities through automatic payroll deductions. The AEA maintains that the law was written expressly to halt its activities, by defining "political activity" too loosely. It sued to block the law, arguing that it impinges on the union's First Amendment free-speech rights. In a victory last week, a judge sided with the union, temporarily suspending the law's implementation.

While an appeal is likely, the AEA has been assembling an army to retain their membership. Since the bill's passage, the union has hired some 300 part-time recruiters to persuade individual teachers to have dues deducted automatically via bank draft. So far, the union has only signed up 83 percent of current and retired members. That means nearly 18,000 current AEA members are having second thoughts about their AEA membership.

Idaho: Last week, the day after two education reform bills were signed into law, the state teachers union filed petitions to repeal them. The IEA is now tasked with getting almost 50,000 signatures in support. If they are able to secure the petition requirements, the laws will go up for consideration in a ballot measure in 2012.

Florida: In another blow to unions, the Florida House passed a bill Friday that would ban payroll deductions of dues and require labor organizations to get individual members' OK before using their payments for political purposes. Rep. Chris Dorworth, sponsor of the bill stated, "It affords members of labor unions the right to determine whether or not they want to be part of the political agenda of the union." The Florida legislation still needs Senate approval.

Kansas: The Kansas House of Representatives recently passed a paycheck protection bill. In addition, there is an equal access bill being consider that 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.

Tennessee: With multiple pieces of legislation moving through the statehouse in Nashville, the TEA has made several strategic decisions about which bills to fight. While the TEA hasn't fought a bill that would adjust tenure requirements, the union has been pushing legislators to ease the language of a bill that would eliminate collective bargaining privileges. A House panel in Tennessee recently crafted a compromise to maintain collective bargaining, but remove policy factors such as teacher evaluations from negotiations as well as maintain elements of paycheck protection. Governor Haslam and Speaker of the House Beth Harwell, a Republican, have endorsed the proposal, but it is not clear whether Senate Republicans will agree to the compromise.

Despite, a judge's temporary restraining order barring Governor Walker's new law from taking effect, the state's Legislative Reference Bureau (LRB) published the bill electronically on Friday, causing another firestorm of controversy from union officials and supporters. The move introduced new heated debate over the measure, which was a major catalyst for similar legislation in other states.

Ohio: The most ambitious attempt by a state this year to restrict union power is being scaled back to reflect some concerns that it is vulnerable a lengthily legal battle if passed. The Ohio bill, which passed the Senate 17-16, would take away the ability of public-employee unions to negotiate over pensions and health benefits, and tie wage increases to performance instead of years of service. Legislators in Ohio are debating this week who will be included in this legislation and are considering exempting public safety workers.

AAE is monitoring legislation that affects our members. Visit the AAE blog for the latest.

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