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Big business wants to tell teachers: SHUT UP!

For years, big business interests have tried to impose their will on public education. The result? A “gotcha” teacher evaluation scheme in constant flux, botched implementation of Common Core standards, over-testing of students, attacks on educators and the wholesale privatization of our schools.

Education unions have stood in the way of this power grab. We’ve stood with other public employee unions to protect and preserve public pensions. We have been forced to fight, and we have done so honorably and effectively.

But advocacy comes with a price. Again this year, the LFT and LAE are in the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry’s crosshairs.

For the third straight year, LABI has made eliminating payroll deduction of union dues one of their primary goals. Like well-heeled extremists in other states, LABI hopes to get rid of any organized resistance by making union membership as inconvenient as possible.

LABI has been this state’s biggest cheerleader for Common Core and PARCC testing, even as the failed rollout destroyed teacher morale and sparked an uprising among parents concerned about the ways that students are tested and labeled in the state.

Payroll deduction of union dues is not Louisiana’s biggest problem. LABI has picked this divisive fight as we confront a mind-boggling budget shortfall. Because of many of the very policies favored by big business, we face a $1.6 billion deficit.

But solving the budget crisis isn’t the first priority of the big business lobby. Neither is funding higher education, providing affordable health care, preserving our public retirement systems, standing tall for well-resourced public schools, or even tax fairness. Their primary focus is privatizing public education and waging war on those who disagree.

It’s time to talk to your senator and representative. Tell them that you understand the challenges they face in 2015, and that you want them to spend their time solving our real problems. Tell them that you’re ready to stand with them, and to invite the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry to join in this effort.

Here are a few points that lawmakers need to understand:

  • Under current law, members of unions can opt to pay our dues through payroll deduction. This is not a special privilege. It is a service available to credit unions, insurance companies, and other recognized vendors as well as professional organizations. It’s how business is done in the era of E-commerce, and it is our choice to make.
  • Our membership dues are not taxpayer dollars. Dues are voluntarily contributed from our earned salaries. It costs employers virtually nothing to add dues to the list of deductions available.
  • Louisiana is a right to work state. No one is forced to join a union. We understand that we are joining an advocacy organization that lobbies on behalf of public education and defends our rights. That’s why we join the union.
  • My salary is money that I have earned, and I have a right to spend it as I choose. Public policy should not be used to make my choice more difficult. Despite LABI’s high minded rhetoric, making my choice more difficult is the point of the legislation. Plain and simple.
  • It is no surprise that some want to silence unions by making it harder for us to join. But eliminating the way we pay our dues is a gag order, and we do not believe the legislature should go along with this effort to silence us.
  • As a supporter of American freedoms, lawmakers should find any such bill very troubling. They are insults to the Constitutional rights of freedom of speech, freedom of association, and our democratic government.
  • The organizations that we support should be OUR choice – not the government’s.

This move by big business is divisive and unnecessary. Please stand up for freedom, and tell LABI “NO.”