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Teachers Singled Out in Indiana Union Membership Bill

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Indiana has more than 56,000 public-school teachers and support staff. (Adobe Stock)
Indiana has more than 56,000 public-school teachers and support staff. (Adobe Stock)
 By Mary Schuermann Kuhlman - Producer, Contact
February 17, 2021

INDIANAPOLIS - Some Indiana educators are speaking out about legislation they contend is anti-union and singles out teachers.

Under Senate Bill 251, teacher unions would not be allowed to automatically renew members. Instead, teachers and support staff would need to re-enroll every year, and personally request that dues be deducted from their paychecks.

Shannon Adams, president of Martinsville Classroom Teachers Association Local 6548, said she sees it as a solution in search of a problem.

"I struggle with seeing how that's a priority during the pandemic, with the issues we have with jobs and the economy," she said. "It feels incredibly discriminatory in practice."

SB 251 also would require school districts to send a yearly notice to teachers, stating that they aren't required to join a union. Supporters have claimed the measure would help teachers by allowing them the chance to review union membership and ensure they're not unknowingly paying fees. However, Adams countered that teachers don't want or need that kind of help.

The Senate's Fiscal Impact Statement showed that the provisions in the bill would mean a workload increase for public schools. Randy Harrison, president of Anderson Federation of Teachers Local 519, predicted it would be "more red tape" for unions and their members.

"It's going to create more paperwork, to the tune of roughly 500 people in Anderson that are going to have to re-up as members every year," he said. "So, it's going to create an undue burden on not only the union office, but it will also create that on the payroll and the business office."

Adams said the bill only targets union dues among many possible paycheck deductions, and it includes only teachers and staff in public schools.

"Why are we attacking public labor? Because that's what it feels like," she said. "Why the urgency? Why is there such a similar bill in Florida? Who's behind it? I just don't see that there is a problem with the way our teachers' associations do their business."

Unlike SB 251, the bill Florida lawmakers are considering does include all public workers. The Indiana Senate had a second reading of SB 251 on Monday, and it could be on the Senate floor by the end of the week.

Disclosure: American Federation of Teachers contributes to our fund for reporting on Education, Health Issues, Livable Wages/Working Families, Social Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
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