Oklahoma bill aimed at dismantling unions takes ‘revenge’ on teachers for striking

Elham Khatami

Elham Khatami Associate Editor, Think Progress

Weeks after tens of thousands of Oklahoma teachers ended their nine-day strike after securing major wins, including teacher raises and additional education funding, legislators introduced a bill that aims to hamper membership in the teachers unions that helped organized the walkouts.

The measure, Senate Bill 1150, began as a bill tackling child abuse, but was completely rewritten this week thanks to an amendment by state Rep. Todd Russ (R). The current version of the bill would require a majority vote by teachers every five years in order to keep their collective bargaining unit. It would also prohibit school districts from automatically subtracting union dues from teacher paychecks, leaving teachers to make their own plans with the union to make the payments.

“There’s teachers that have been there for 20, 30 years and never had the opportunity to retain their union or change representation, or quit paying the dues and not have representation,” said Russ, according to The Oklahoman.

But Ed Allen, president of the Oklahoma City chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, told The Oklahoman that the legislation “seems like a revenge bill to come back after teachers, after the walkout.”

Katherine Bishop, vice president of the Oklahoma Education Association (OEA), agreed, criticizing lawmakers for “singl[ing] the unions out.” Bishop called the bill a “clear attack for teachers taking a stand and schools shutting down their doors and their voices being heard at the Capitol.”

Teachers discussed the measure in the Oklahoma Teacher Walkout private Facebook group, with one individual pointing out Wednesday that “OEA doesn’t even have any bargaining locals in Rep. Russ’s district. This is strictly about targeting teachers and education support professionals!”

While the legislation is not likely to become law, the attempt to diminish union membership is troubling for Oklahoma teachers, who often feel it is their only source of protection.

“All an attempt to weaken unions by strangling their ability to fight by cutting into their money,” one person said in the Facebook group.

Meanwhile, teachers are simultaneously fighting back against a potential ballot initiative that would put the state revenue bill — the one containing the education funding provisions promised to teachers following their strike — up for a veto referendum. Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite strongly opposes the legislation and is seeking 40,000 signatures on a petition to convince lawmakers to put the issue up for a vote. The deadline for the collecting signatures is July 18.

“I find myself unable to sleep at night because I simply don’t understand why funding education is such a struggle!” Alberto Morejon, one of the strike organizers, wrote on Facebook. “Why do teachers have to fight in order to make a livable wage? Why wouldn’t we want to fund education, giving our kids everything they deserve and every tool possible to give them the best chance to succeed in life?”

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Reposted from Think Progress

Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: National Association of Letter Carriers

From the AFL-CIO

Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Name of Union: National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC)

Mission: To unite fraternally all city letter carriers employed by the U.S. Postal Service for their mutual benefit; to obtain and secure rights as employees of the USPS and to strive at all times to promote the safety and the welfare of every member; to strive for the constant improvement of the Postal Service; and for other purposes. NALC is a single-craft union and is the sole collective-bargaining agent for city letter carriers.

Current Leadership of Union: Fredric V. Rolando serves as president of NALC, after being sworn in as the union's 18th president in 2009. Rolando began his career as a letter carrier in 1978 in South Miami before moving to Sarasota in 1984. He was elected president of Branch 2148 in 1988 and served in that role until 1999. In the ensuing years, he worked in various roles for NALC before winning his election as a national officer in 2002, when he was elected director of city delivery. In 2006, he won election as executive vice president. Rolando was re-elected as NALC president in 2010, 2014 and 2018.

Brian Renfroe serves as executive vice president, Lew Drass as vice president, Nicole Rhine as secretary-treasurer, Paul Barner as assistant secretary-treasurer, Christopher Jackson as director of city delivery, Manuel L. Peralta Jr. as director of safety and health, Dan Toth as director of retired members, Stephanie Stewart as director of the Health Benefit Plan and James W. “Jim” Yates as director of life insurance.

Number of Members: 291,000 active and retired letter carriers.

Members Work As: City letter carriers.

Industries Represented: The United States Postal Service.

History: In 1794, the first letter carriers were appointed by Congress as the implementation of the new U.S. Constitution was being put into effect. By the time of the Civil War, free delivery of city mail was established and letter carriers successfully concluded a campaign for the eight-hour workday in 1888. The next year, letter carriers came together in Milwaukee and the National Association of Letter Carriers was formed.

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