Indiana union leaders say a pivotal U.S. Supreme Court decision handed down Wednesday won’t have a direct impact on the state, but could change the way those groups receive support from national affiliates.
Some states allow public sector unions to charge agency or “fair-share” fees for non-union members to be represented in union-bargained contracts, without having them join the union itself. That practice for teachers unions has been illegal in Indiana since the mid-'90s, and for other public sector unions for more than a decade. But with the Supreme Court’s latest decision, it will be prohibited across the nation.
Indiana State Teachers Association President Teresa Meredith says the group has been preparing for the Supreme Court’s new ruling since the issue took a serious national spotlight. She says that’s because the impact on ISTA’s parent organization could trickle down to the state level.
“We’ve prepared either way, either to keep moving forward as we are, or if the national support for us financially were to change a bit what would that look like for us,” she says.
It’s a problem unions in states that already prohibit agency fees share.
Executive Director of the American Federation of Teachers Indiana Sally Sloan says if national membership goes down, AFT Indiana could lose some financial support for different resources it offers to educators.
“Some of the money that goes to our national union, that in turn comes back to support our professional development programs, our leadership programs,” Sloan says.
But leaders of those national groups, and even in some states that will see a direct impact from the new decision, say they plan to keep fighting.
President of ISTA’s national affiliate, the National Education Association, Lily Eskelsen García, called the decision a “slap in the face” for educators and other public sector employees.
“Those behind this case know that unions amplify workers’ voices and transform their words into powerful and collective action,” García said in a statement. “Even though the Supreme Court sided with corporate CEOs and billionaires over working Americans, unions will continue to be the best vehicle on the path to the middle class.”
Several are calling the court’s decision a rallying point for unions, and Sloan and Meredith agree.
“Right now it is not going to change what we do, I think it will cause us to dig in even harder, to try to educate our members and our potential members,” Sloan says.
The National Education Association will meet with state leaders for an annual conference next week. Meredith says attendees will likely discuss and argue over several issues, but will also plan how to move forward under the new decision.