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News: Advocacy

Arkansas Learns Strongly Supports HB1864 - Teachers' Right to Work

Monday, April 15, 2013   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Gary Newton
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The Arkansas Constitution says that everyone, regardless of his/her membership or non-membership in a union, has the right to work in our state. So it stands to reason, when it comes to joining or quitting a union or professional organization, the playing field should be even.

That is why Arkansas Learns strongly supports HB1864 - Teachers' Right to Work, which is scheduled to come before the House Committee on Education tomorrow (Tuesday, April 16th). The bill simply empowers all publicly employed teachers in our state to make the best decision(s) for themselves and their families.

The Little Rock/Arkansas/National Education Associations’ (LREA/AEA/NEA) Membership Application states:

"PAYROLL DEDUCTION. I hereby request and authorize, as provided by ACA 6-17-805, that the professional unified membership dues to the Little Rock Education Association, Arkansas Education Association and National Education Association be deducted in regular installments this school year and each school year hereafter.

"I understand that in order to resign my membership, I must submit certified letters of resignation to the Little Rock Education Association office and the Little Rock School District Financial Services/Business Office dated no earlier than June 15 and no later than July 15. I also understand that although I have elected to pay in installments, I am responsible for the entire dues amount."

In other words, teachers may join the unions at any time by simply completing and submitting the application, but may only resign by certified letter delivered to two different locations within the prescribed one month window or be forced to pay another year's annual dues through monthly payroll deductions collected by the district.

While the LREA/AEA/NEA characterizes this bill as "union breaking," nothing could be further from the truth. Arkansas Learns has no issue with unions' establishing and enforcing the membership requirements of their choosing. However, when any organization utilizes public payroll deduction, it must do so fairly and equitably.

For example, there is an alternative in order to keep more money in the pockets of new and veteran teachers. For 25% of the annual $701 LREA/AEA/NEA membership, teachers may join the professional, non-union Arkansas State Teachers Association (ASTA) for $180 annually and receive benefits comparable to or exceeding those of union membership.

Unfortunately, the LREA/AEA/NEA collective bargaining agreement bars the Little Rock School District from sharing this, or any other alternative professional group information, with its teachers and staff.

Further, the district's collectively bargained certified contract pays the heads of both the LREA and the AEA to be unassigned to any classroom, then is reimbursed by the respective unions.For the record, ASTA pays its own management directly.

While no ASTA member dues are used to fund lobbying expenses or political action committee contributions, the NEA, which is funded by LREA/AEA dues, contributed $18,534,543 in member dues to political candidates in 2012. Out of the 20,968 organizations contributing to candidates for elective office, NEA ranked 10th.

When a district allows any group to hold a monopoly on professional group choice, doesn’t allow its employees to quit a union by ending public payroll deduction anytime they wish, and collects over $1,000,000 in annual dues at no expense to the local/state/national union to help fund "friendly” candidates, someone - administrative or elected - was either asleep or complicit across the bargaining table. That is why it is so important that the legislature steps in to ensure that ALL of our state's publicly employed teachers are treated fairly and equitably.

In Arkansas, Right to Work should guarantee Right to Quit.

If you agree, please share with your teacher friends across the state and encourage them to write members of the House Committee on Education (emails below) asking that they vote DO PASS on HB1864 - Teachers' Right to Work.

Members House Committee on Education

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