Indiana unions sue over yearly hurdle on teacher union dues

(Photo Supplied/Indiana House Republicans)

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Three Indiana teachers unions have filed a federal lawsuit seeking to block a new state law that would require educators to renew requests every year for automatic paycheck deductions of union dues.

Unions representing teachers with the Anderson, Avon and Martinsville school districts and the teachers who lead them filed the lawsuit Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Indianapolis. It contends the law, which is scheduled to take effect in July, unfairly targets teachers and makes it harder for their unions to collect dues.

The law creates a new process for the collection of teachers union dues and requires teachers to annually complete a three-step process to have union dues deducted from their paychecks, The Indianapolis Star reported.

Jeff Macey, the attorney representing the teachers and their unions, said no other unions or organization that allows for wage deductions is required to follow the same process. He said the law violates teachers’ constitutional rights.

“Why are teachers being singled out for these onerous restrictions?” Macey asked. “No other union, no other charity, no other organization in the state has to do this to assign a portion of your wages to (them).”

The teachers and their unions are seeking a preliminary injunction to block the law from taking effect July 1. If the law does take effect, the complaint says it will impair existing agreements between some unions and their dues-paying members to deduct dues after July 1.

Suzy Lebo, president of the Avon Federation of Teachers, sees the new law as punishment for teachers’ activism in recent years, including a November 2019 rally where thousands of teachers surrounded the Indiana Statehouse to demand higher pay and better working conditions.

“It’s a stunt by the Indiana legislators to try to keep teachers unions from happening,” Lebo said.

The lawsuit names as defendants Attorney General Todd Rokita, Secretary of Education Katie Jenner and Tammy Meyer, chair of the Indiana Education Employment Relations Board.

The Indiana Department of Education and IEERB declined to comment on the pending litigation.

Rokita said in a statement that the new law supports “the rights of teachers to individually authorize a payroll deduction for union dues.”

Lebo said teachers already have the right to join or leave the union at any time. All the new law does is make it harder to join and create more work for school districts, she said.

Avon’s teachers union has around 440 members, Lebo said. Instead of signing a form and turning it in to union officers, under the new law each teacher would have to sign a form created by the Attorney General’s office. That form would have to be submitted to the school district and central office staff would have to email each teacher to confirm receipt.

Teachers would then have to reply back, reaffirming their wish to have their dues deducted.

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