A bill that would make it illegal for Oklahoma school districts to automatically deduct union dues from teachers’ paychecks has passed through the state senate.
Bill author Tom Newell said groups should not be allowed to do collective bargaining with state dollars. He went on to say that teachers unions are the only entity to do so, reports Heather Hope for News 9.
“The principle behind the bill is that the people of Oklahoma should not be forced to collect dues for unions that collectively bargain against the people. Other deductions do not go to unions. Police and fire unions collectively bargain at the local level with local tax dollars. We have not researched the actual cost, but common sense tells us that there is a cost.”
While the bill passed 27-16, it also created a division among Republicans after a number of lawmakers said it focused too much on teachers unions.
The focus has also caused the Oklahoma City American Federation of Teachers union to consider a lawsuit if Governor Mary Fallin, who is expected to sign the bill, approves the legislation.
While Senator Rick Brinkley acknowledged his support of the bill, he added that he would like to see it apply to all unions covering state employees, including state troopers, corrections officers, police and firefighters.
“I will be voting against the bill, not because I don’t agree with the policy of the bill and the content of the bill, which I strongly agree in,” said Brinkley, who was among 11 Republicans who voted against the bill. “If it’s good policy for one, it’s good policy for all.”
However, others, including retired teacher and Senator Ron Sharp, feel the bill takes a tool used for protection away from teachers. “This bill is not policy, it is politics,” he said. “I don’t care what you say, it comes down to politics.”
Oklahoma City-AFT President Ed Allen considers the vote a “bold” move, as it comes only four days before teachers, parents and administrators are set to hold a rally at the Capitol over educational issues such as funding and testing, writes Nate Robson for Oklahoma Watch.
The bill would not make unions illegal, but rather ask teachers to pay their dues themselves. This can be done through credit card payments, check, cash, or auto-deductions from checking accounts.
State Labor Commissioner Mark Costello publicly announced his support for the bill on Facebook last week, calling it a “major leadership accomplishments.”
“Today, I extend my congratulations to those members of the state senate who stood up for taxpayers by getting the state out of the business of collecting union dues,” he wrote. “I now encourage Gov. Mary Fallin to sign this most important reform measure when it comes to her desk.”