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Union Battle Progress
posted by: Cindy Omlin | April 04, 2011, 05:32 PM   

Ohio- Ohio has seen significant progress since last week. Governor John Kasich signed Senate Bill 5 into law last Thursday, banning strikes, eliminating collective bargaining, and ending forced unionism.

While the legislation is seen as a victory for Governor Kasich, opponents of the law, including the state's largest teacher union, have started gathering signatures for a possible ballot initiative in the next election cycle. The coalition leading the petition drive will need more than 230,000 signatures by June 30, 2011 to put a referendum on November's ballot.

Alabama- In December, a law aimed at curbing union political power was passed, ensuring that state dollars would not go to administering payroll deductions for union dues that fund politics. The law was met with pushback from local unions, as they sued successfully arguing that the law would cost the AEA almost $1.4 million.

That ban was set to take effect before April, but an injunction was granted by Judge Lynwood Smith on March 18, which stops the law from taking effect while the law's constitutionality is challenged in court. The state has appealed to the 11th Circuit Court. Smith also denied a state motion to lift the injunction until the appeal is settled.

The Alabama State Employees Association joined the AEA as a plaintiff last week. The International Association of Fire Fighters also filed a similar lawsuit last week and requested to have their case joined with the AEA's original petition.

Minnesota- The Minnesota legislature is looking at ways to redefine the state's relationship with public employees and unions through several pieces of legislation this session. Everything from pay freezes to school vouchers, reduced public pensions and making Minnesota a "Right to Work" state have been considered as possible solutions to curbing union power and closing budget shortfalls.

A Minnesota Senate committee voted in favor of a bill last week that would make it illegal for teachers to strike.

Florida- After overhauling teacher pay, evaluations, and contracts, Florida lawmakers are working on several more initiatives to reform education in the Sunshine State.

Among the ambitious plans are expanding charter schools and school-voucher programs, rewriting rules that could require middle school students to pass civics exams, and giving schools with unsatisfactory reading scores automatic "F" grades. Pension reform is also being discussed, a move that would require tens of thousands of schools employees to pay a portion of their retirement costs. These elements would build on Florida's reputation as longtime leader in education reform spearheaded by former Governor Jeb Bush.

Wisconsin- In the state that started it all, a Wisconsin judge has put the brakes on their union reform legislation for at least the next two months. A judge ruled Friday to delay the law, issuing a restraining order while she considers if Republicans passed it illegally.

The controversy stems from a possible breach in procedure from Wisconsin Republicans who passed it after a month of theatrics and walk-outs from Senate Democrats. The judge is considering a lawsuit that says Republican lawmakers did not provide the proper public notice when they convened a special committee to amend the plan before its inevitable passage. The state has appealed the order to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, but the court has not yet indicated whether it will hear the case.

Tennessee- The Tennessee Senate is now debating a measure that would encourage school districts to get teachers' input on employment issues without going through their unions–a move meant to win lawmakers' votes on the heavily debated union bill.

Republican leadership in the Senate says they will not back down from their original proposal to overturn the law that allows collective bargaining. Senate Republicans are instead writing an amendment that would direct school boards to hold informal talks with teachers, outside the unions.

Oklahoma- This week, union workers are marching in Oklahoma to oppose legislation that would eliminate collective bargaining for state employees. So far, Oklahoma's labor debate has been mild compared to the heated protests in states such as Wisconsin and Ohio, where organized labor is much stronger than in Oklahoma.

Kansas: The Kansas House of Representatives recently passed a paycheck protection bill. In addition, the House approved an equal access bill (HB 2229) that would level the playing field for non-union organizations like AAE (and our Kansas chapter, the Kansas Association of American Educators) so that we would receive the same access to teachers that the KNEA currently receives. Both bills are now being considered the Senate.

AAE continues to monitor legislation that affects our members. Visit the AAE blog for the latest.

Originally posted by Alix at AAE.

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