Oregon school districts added about 2,100 teachers in the last school year, but union membership in the Oregon Education Association (OEA) dropped by almost 500.
Jason Dudash, Freedom Foundation Oregon Director in Oregon, says the membership decline disclosed in internal documents obtained by his organization indicates unions have overstepped their authority in the classroom.
“Teachers are realizing their unions support policies that are actively harming the students and profession they love. In Oregon and across the country, thousands of teachers are telling their union, ’We’re sick of this, and we’re done with you.’ That may seem like a crisis for the unions, but it’s great news for the rest of us.”
It’s easier for Oregon teachers to resign their membership thanks to a 2018 Supreme Court decision in Janus v American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees. In its 5-4 decision, the Court held that government employees could not be forced to join a union and could not be required to pay union dues or fees. Illinois state worker Mark Janus had sued AFSCME after the union demanded a deduction from his paycheck for “fair share” dues, a discount of around 20% from regular dues, to represent the nonunion worker.
Kansas Legislature hasn’t upheld public employee rights
Oregon is not a right-to-work state, meaning workers are compelled to join a union. Janus allows public employees to quit a union at any time, but public employees’ rights have not been resolved in Kansas.
Dave Trabert, CEO of the Kansas Policy Institute, which owns The Sentinel, testified in favor of the legislation:
“As a result of Janus, K.S.A. 75-5501 currently has an unconstitutional minimum 180-day dues withholding requirement with no provision for the employee to resign and stop paying dues whenever they wish.
“To be clear, SB 511 and our support for it is not a derogatory comment on unions; it is simply about respecting each public employee’s constitutional right. Constitutional rights exist absolutely and cannot be subject to limitation by collective bargaining agreements or any other organizational practice. Kansas is a right-to-work state, and just as people should be free to join a union if they wish, they should also be free to leave that union whenever they like. “
Sarah LaFrenz, with the Kansas Chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, argued the bill was not necessary:
“The proponents of this bill say that the intent of this bill is to bring the state into compliance with the court’s ruling in Janus, but the bill does not have that effect. Again, Kansas has been in compliance with the court’s ruling sixty years before the court had even conceived of its opinion in Janus.”
Trabert disagreed, saying there can be no restriction on when an employee may exercise a constitutional right.
“Constitutional rights cannot be subject to a clock, a calendar — they’re absolute,” Trabert said. “So that needs to be changed.”
The bill died in committee, but the Legislature could attempt to restore public employees’ rights in 2023.