Business and Labor

Changes to education labor union membership proposed

A bill that would allow public school employees to join or leave a labor union at any time was heard by the Business and Labor Committee Feb. 8.

Sen. Robert Clements
Sen. Robert Clements

LB684, sponsored by Elmwood Sen. Robert Clements, would prohibit any public school or labor organization representing public school employees from placing restrictions on when a person may join or terminate membership in a labor organization.

If the dates to opt out of union membership are missed, Clements said, a teacher may have to wait over a year to officially terminate membership with the union while still being required to pay dues.

“I believe in the right to associate freely with organizations with which you find value and common interests,” he said. “In the same way, when you cease to find value in your organization, you should be able to leave without difficulty.”

Speaking in support of LB684 was Charles Zurcher, representing the Association of American Educators. He said teachers should be allowed to join and leave a labor union whenever they want.

“While some teachers may see the value for their money, those who don’t shouldn’t have money taken from their hard-earned paychecks,” Zurcher said. “This straightforward solution gives teachers the autonomy and respect they deserve with respect to association membership.”

Doug Kagan, representing Nebraska Taxpayers for Freedom, also supported the bill. With inconvenient deadlines at busy times, short opt-out windows and special forms required, he said teachers find it difficult to resign their membership.

“The arrangement allows unions to continue to collect mandatory dues until the window opens again in the next cycle,” Kagan said. “LB684 would allow teachers in future contracts the freedom of choice to leave union membership at any time during the year and would prohibit the union from placing restrictions both on how and when a public school employee could terminate membership.”

Jason Hayes, offering written testimony on behalf of the Nebraska State Education Association, opposed the bill.

Annual membership in the NSEA is voluntary and can be terminated at any time, he said, however, as with all annual contracts, an individual is obligated to fulfill the payment terms for the length of the contract.

“While some have argued that unions cannot enforce voluntarily undertaken membership agreements, the courts have rejected those arguments, holding that an individual’s voluntary agreement to pay annual dues is a private contractual agreement with the union that can be enforced even if the individual opts to resign their membership,” Hayes said.

Also opposing LB684 was Susan Martin, president of the Nebraska State AFL-CIO. She said union members understand the terms of their membership when they join voluntarily.

“Our state legislature is always looking at less government involvement and … I feel this bill is unnecessary overreach,” Martin said. “Just like any other agreement signed by individuals when joining an organization, they are aware of the terms of the membership. These decisions should be between the organization and the employee.”

The committee took no immediate action on the bill.

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