INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -
Indiana lawmakers are considering a measure that requires state officials to
publicize the percentage of teachers who are union members and, in some
cases, inform them that they can get rid of or change that representation.
the bill is an effort to make the process of changing representation more
transparent for teachers. But opponents view it as an “unnecessary” proposal
and another move against unions in a state that already has a right-to-work
law on the books curtailing union power.
“I have no problem
with transparency, but I don’t think this is an issue of transparency,” said
Democratic state Rep. Vernon Smith. “I think it’s an issue of trying to
diminish the impact of unions.”
state Sen. Erin Houchin’s proposal, information on the number of teachers
who are union members would be available on the Indiana Education Employment
Relations Board web site. IEERB officials would notify teachers “each school
year” that the union membership figure drops below 50 percent of total
teachers in a bargaining unit, and inform them of their right to
representation and “the ability to change their exclusive representative”
under existing law.
The process for
triggering a representation election in a school district is set out in
statute and information on the number of union members in a school district
is already accessible for interested parties via a FOIA request or often,
bill opponents said, an inquiry placed with a superintendent.
“I can’t for the
life of me figure out why they want to do this, other than just stir things
up,” Indiana State Teachers Association president Teresa Meredith told The
Associated Press. “They’re trying to disrupt (unions) and cause some waves.”
Supporters say some
teachers unhappy with their representation don’t know their rights or how to
change things. “This is nothing but making the process a little more
transparent for teachers so that the teachers can have the best option
available for them,” State Rep. Jerry Torr, a Republican from Carmel, said
A House education
panel approved the bill 7-4 in a party line vote Tuesday. It previously
passed the Senate and now advances to the full House for consideration.
In addition to
notification when membership drops below 50 percent, the proposal calls for
a summer study committee to examine an unrelated federal law and directs the
IEERB website to include instructional material about changing
representation - in addition to the percentage of teachers who are union
Tuesday that making that data public was essential for teachers interested
in a change but fearful of retaliation.
lawmakers and bill opponents brushed that reasoning aside, saying unions
often work with non-members cooperatively and willingly.
lawmakers, do their best for the entire body they represent, said Sally
Sloan of Indiana’s branch of the American Federation of Teachers. “We’re not
the enemy,” Sloan said. “Teachers are not - teachers and their unions -
because unions are made up of teachers,” Sloan said.