Legislation targets teacher dues payments in attempt to silence protests against privatization, lack of school funding

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 10, 2017
CONTACTS: Rob D’Amico, 512-627-1343

State Senate Committee to hold Feb. 13 hearing on SB 13 and HB 510

Teachers across the state—some in disbelief, some voicing anger—are hearing again that some lawmakers want to diminish their freedom to voluntarily support their professional organizations through payroll deduction.

Senate Bill 13 (Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston) and HB 510 (Rep. Sarah Davis, R-Houston) would eliminate payroll dues deduction for teachers and other school personnel, nurses, correctional officers, child protection workers, and other public-sector workers at the state and local level. These bills single out these public employees but would continue to allow payroll deduction for police and firefighters and other deductions of choice that go to hundreds of other organizations, many of which lobby at the Capitol. SB 13’s author, Huffman, has said that it’s because those employees are “different.”

“This is a tactic being waged across the country by lawmakers who don’t like that teachers speak out in support of their profession and the kids we educate,” said Louis Malfaro, president of the Texas branch of the American Federation of Teachers.

“We show up, session after session, to tell our legislators that they need to fix school finance, that they need to put more equity in a funding system so that there isn’t a huge disparity in the educational opportunities of our kids throughout the state. And we show up by the thousands to tell them that we’re watching their votes, that we won’t stand for our neighborhood schools to be privatized, that we won’t stand for a test and punish system of accountability. To be frank, the proponents for underfunding, over-testing and privatizing aren’t happy about it, and they’d like nothing better than for us just to go away, to be quiet, and that’s what these bills are all about.”

The Senate State Affair Committee will hold a hearing on SB 13 at 8 a.m. on Monday, Feb. 13. Teachers and other public employee union members will testify at the hearing and tell senators that politicians in Austin shouldn’t be dictating which organizations should be acceptable for payroll deduction payments.

“Under current law, any cost incurred in processing payroll deduction payments must be paid by the receiving organization, so this system doesn’t cost taxpayers anything,” Malfaro said. “This system is used for a variety of organizations, such as donations to nonprofits, but these bills specifically target the unions of teachers and most other public employees.”

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has declared outlawing payroll deduction a top priority for the legislative session, and Gov. Greg Abbott included it as a priority in his State of the State speech this month. Both say private-school vouchers are their top education priority. A similar bill outlawing payroll deduction for public employee union dues, SB 1968, passed the Senate last session but did not move out of committee in the House.

“These bills are a move devised to weaken our collective voice and shut up teachers and school employees once and for all, to get them out of the way so that they can move forward with using taxpayer money for private schools,” Malfaro said.

Texas AFT has launched a campaign–“Your Voice: Use It or Lose It”–to rally school employees against the bills. More at: https://www.texasaft.org/voice-use-it-or-lose-it/
Background on SB 13 and SB 10:

Membership and payroll deduction are entirely voluntary. Mandatory union membership is illegal in Texas. Every public employee in Texas who chooses to join and direct a portion of their earnings to pay for representation by an employee or professional organization does so voluntarily.

No expense to taxpayers. No state or local funds are required to operate the payroll deduction system. State law explicitly provides that the organization receiving dues is responsible for any administrative costs incurred in processing the deduction.

Payroll deduction for public employees does not affect small business. Despite the misleading claims of NFIB, this proposed legislation has nothing at all to do with private businesses, small or large. The only employees affected by this bill work for school districts and state and local government.

Dues cannot be used for political expenditures. Under the Election Code, employee organizations may not use dues dollars for political contributions.

Discrimination among employees without reason. A selective payroll prohibition policy would give some employees a right denied to others. Teachers, CPS workers, correctional officers, and other public employees and retirees should be able to contribute to the responsible, law-abiding organization of their choice.

Safety and security for employees. Payroll deduction provides a safe and secure means of making payments in timely fashion.

Employees should be free to choose how they spend their own paycheck. The state should not pick winners and losers by endorsing or opposing viewpoints or organizations through its payroll deduction policies. State and local entities allow hundreds of organizations with widely varying views to receive voluntary deductions from state and local government employee paychecks.

Last session, this politically motivated bill was OPPOSED by mayors, county commissioners, superintendents, teachers, independent school districts, police officers, firefighters, paramedics, parole officers, retirees, public education groups, and law enforcement organizations.

Texas American Federation of Teachers represents more than 65,000 teachers, paraprofessionals, support personnel, and higher-education employees across the state. Texas AFT is affiliated with the 1.6-million-member American Federation of Teachers.