Teachers say new bill on unions could hurt students

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JEFFERSON CITY – Union teachers are urging lawmakers to vote against a bill that would change how unions use dues and manage membership.

The bill, HB 1413, does three major things: it prevents unions from taking money out of members' salaries to pay dues without an annual authorization; it prevents unions from using member fees to pay political campaign contributions without consent; it requires union members to re-certify their union every two years.

Sally Topping, a St. Louis teacher who opposes the bill, said the shorter re-certification process could hurt students.

"Basically, we have to re-certify our union every two years, which makes it impossible for us then to have any certainty with regard to salary or working conditions." Topping said. "When you negotiate a contract, it takes about a year. Now, we're talking about an even shorter process."

Topping said the more frequent re-certification process would distract teachers from writing curriculum and gathering supplies because they wouldn't have the job certainty needed to make arrangements. The sponsor of the bill, Rep. Jered Taylor (R-Nixa), doesn't believe that to be the case.

"Well, I would say it's a pretty simple process," Taylor said. "It gives them two weeks to re-certify every two years and they should have the opportunity, new teachers are always coming in, things change, they should decide whether or not they still want to be represented by the union."

Taylor said the political contributions issue would also require consent as a way to try to keep union activities in the best interest of its members.

"They shouldn't have dues being taken out if it's going to political purposes that they disagree with. Maybe they still want to be part of the union, but they don't want those dues being spent on candidates they don't support," Taylor said.

However, according to Topping, there's a problem with that logic.

"Some [representatives] didn't realize that political contributions are entirely voluntary, separate and segregated from any other dues that are paid," Topping said. "They didn't know that. They were so out of touch with what the union for teachers really does that some of their questions, honestly, if they were students, I would have given them an 'F.'"

Topping said HB 1413 is really just a political game to weaken unions and keep teacher voices quiet.

The bill passed the house and is currently in the senate. That's actually where the part about re-certification was added. However, Taylor said he supports that addition.