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Solidarity wins the day for public employees

Thanks in large part to a strong show of unity among public sector employees, an effort to silence the voices of teachers, school employees and other public servants was stopped in its tracks on Wednesday.

HB 451 by Rep. Alan Seabaugh (R-Shreveport) was aimed straight at organizations like the LFT, and would have prohibited teacher unions from collecting member dues through payroll deduction. The attempt to decimate unions was pushed by the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry and a deep-pockets lobby from Washington, D.C., the National Right to Work Committee.

Rep. Seabaugh and a LABI lobbyist feigned innocence, saying the bill was not intended to harm the unions, but simply to free local agencies from the burden of collecting dues.

LFT President Steve Monaghan called them on their tactic, saying “Don’t pretend we’re not being targeted. The voice you wish to suppress is the voice you don’t want to hear.

Opponents believe the bill was filed as retribution for winning lawsuits against vouchers and teacher dismissal policies, for opposing the way that Common Core and standardized testing have been imposed, for questioning the way the Department of Education develops policies in secret and other issues.

“This is a classic case of overreach,” Monaghan said. “You want to take away the voice of public employees through their unions.”

Several members of the committee spoke up for the employees, noting that payroll deduction is a service offered to numerous vendors, including credit unions, insurance companies and others.

Spokesmen for other unions stood united against the assault on teachers and school employees. Chad Major of the firefighters’ union and Chris Stewart of the police union both spoke against the bill, even though their unions were not targeted.

There was plenty of evidence that teacher unions have the support of their communities, if not of their local state legislator. Red River United President Jackie Lansdale came armed with a Caddo Parish School Board resolution in support of payroll deduction for union dues. One of the school board members supporting the union is also the chairperson of Rep. Seabaugh’s local Republican Party.

When the dust settled, the House Labor and Industrial Relations Committee deadlocked in a 6-6 tie, and the bill failed to win approval.