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Teachers should not be quieted

Hoosier teachers have shown ingenuity, patience, leadership and determination as they’ve dealt with the pandemic’s effects on our children and schools. Teachers are a vital part of every community, and that’s never been more clear.

As educators continue to face challenges, you’d think that Indiana Legislators would be working to find solutions, like making sure classrooms are safe, that schools are fully funded and that teachers are paid what they deserve. Instead, some anti-worker politicians are attacking educators and trying to silence them. There are several bills this legislative session that unfairly target teachers, and one of those bills is Senate Bill 251.

S.B. 251 singles out teachers who pay their union dues through payroll deduction. Payroll deduction is a routine function that allows employees to have certain payments simply deducted from their paychecks. Employees use payroll deduction to pay for everything from health insurance premiums to charitable contributions.

S.B. 251 would make the process more complicated by creating unnecessary obstacles for teachers who want to pay their union dues. This bill is an unwarranted government intrusion into educators’ paycheck decisions. We believe teachers should have the freedom to join a union or professional organization without extra government-created bureaucracy.

Payroll deduction seems like a silly thing to create legislation about, but the groups who wrote this legislation are always looking for sneaky ways to make it harder for teachers to organize. They don’t want teachers to speak up for better working conditions, wages and retirements.

Remember when thousands of teachers descended on the Indiana Statehouse in November 2019, just a few months before the pandemic hit? They rallied for more student resources, increased teacher pay, smaller class sizes and fully funded schools. It was one of the largest demonstrations at the Statehouse in decades, and Hoosiers across the state were inspired. Well, some politicians and lobbyists didn’t like that. They want teachers to just shut up.

That’s why we have to fight back against this legislation. S.B. 251 has already passed in the Indiana Senate, and it’s headed to a vote in the House soon.

Teachers deserve to feel respected by their communities and their legislators. They deserve support and encouragement, not legislation that makes it harder for them to organize for a better life. We hope Hoosier legislators remember that they represent everyday working people and not the anti-worker special interest groups looking to strengthen their grip on Indiana politics. We hope they vote no on SB 251.

Brett Voorhies, president of the Indiana AFL-CIO, and GlenEva Dunham, president of AFT Indiana

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