Local teachers unions rush to adjust to Janus ruling striking down agency fees
Wednesday’s Supreme Court ruling in Janus v. AFSCME has left local and state teachers’ unions mobilizing to make sure they are complying with the law.
Denise Specht, president of Education Minnesota, said the union has sent memos to the school districts that employ agency-fee-paying teachers, letting them know to stop deducting the money from teacher paychecks. Such fees were struck down in the high court decision.
“If there are any members who have their fair-share fees deducted from their paychecks, that needs to stop right now,” Specht said. “We sent [employers] communication today so that they were aware of it.”
With the ruling on Janus v. AFSCME, the Supreme Court’s conservative majority said that requiring public employees to pay into a union violates their First Amendment rights because it essentially forces them to subsidize unions’ political speech.
Education Minnesota is affiliated with both the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, which have both sent compliance guidance to local unions on how to “operate in good faith based upon this decision,” AFT President Randi Weingarten said in a call with reporters.
Teachers unions are anticipating that agency-fee payers will disappear from their rolls and budgets. NEA, which represents 3 million workers, said Wednesday that fee payers represent 3 percent of its operating budget; AFT said 60,000 to 80,000 of its 1.75 million members are fee payers.
Education Minnesota represents 95,000 workers, 5,000 of whom are agency fee payers.
“There will no longer be fair-share fees. Those people are essentially gone; they’re done,” Specht said.
In light of the ruling, unions will have to ask workers if they consent to paying dues before any money is deducted.
AFT Pennsylvania President Ted Kirsch said that roughly a third of members there have signed legally binding cards saying, “I’m sticking with the union.”
“It’s hard to predict, but my feeling is that our members are smart. They know this an attack on their pension, their salaries, their working conditions,” he said.
Illinois Federation of Teachers President Dan Montgomery told POLITICO the union he leads has commitment cards from more than 90 percent of its workers.
“It’s a dark day for the history of unions and working people in America. But I feel very confident. We were ready for today,” he said.
Unions will now grapple with the possibility of losing full-fledged members to the appeal of representation without paying a dime.
“It’s like showing up for the potluck and not having a dish to share. They can load up for free,” Specht said.
“That’s a burden on unions, but we’ll figure it out,” Montgomery said.