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.
The National Education Association (NEA) — the nation’s largest labor union — is preparing for a $50 million cut in expenditures over two years and the loss of hundreds of thousands of members as it anticipates losing a closely watched case over fees soon to be decided by the Supreme Court.
Such a cut would mean a roughly 13 percent reduction in expenditures compared to this year, according to the74million.org, an education news website that first reported the teachers union’s projection.
NEA officials confirmed the figures but emphasized the projections are part of conservative budgeting that is preliminary and would be discussed during the union’s annual July Fourth convention in Minneapolis.
The union has more than 3 million members, but estimates its rolls could be reduced by more than 300,000 during a two-year period, the news site reported.
The Supreme Court could issue a verdict any day in Janus v. AFSCME, which challenges the money that public unions such as teachers unions collect from nonmembers to cover their share of collective bargaining costs. It’s widely expected that with conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch on the high court, the ruling will be unfavorable to unions.
The case comes on the heels of another, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, that ended in a 4-4 deadlock following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.
The union is preparing for the shift at the same time thousands of teachers in several states have closed schools to protest low wages and cuts in education spending.
Mary E. Kusler, the senior director of NEA’s Center for Advocacy, said in an interview that the budgeting process underway is about realigning the union to focus on priorities, such as ensuring educators’ voices are heard and that they have a right to negotiate. Kusler said other areas of focus include engagement of early career educators and racial justice in schools and communities.
“The untold story here is that our union is solid and we’re solid and getting stronger despite the unprecedented attacks on working people by this special interest behind the Janus decision,” Kusler said.
Already, union officials said about 40 NEA employees retired around Jan. 1 in anticipation of cuts ahead.
“We continue to remain the largest labor union in the country and we’re not done yet. We are creating this budget in a way to invest in the growth and strength of a union that our members need and rely on and we’re not just going to sit around idly to prepare for the future,” Kusler said. “We are going to be proactive and prudent in how we’re moving forward.”
Separately, Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers union, said in a statement that AFT is in the midst of its annual budget process.
“Given our current financial projections and our members’ overwhelming willingness to stick with the union, we will not be proposing any dues increase for this year at our convention this summer,” Weingarten said. “We are confident we have the resources we need to continue to fight for our members and those they serve.”