DENVER – A legislative panel this week passed a bill that would let teachers join or leave unions or other professional organizations on their own timetable.
House Bill 1333, sponsored by Rep. Jon Becker (R-Fort Morgan) and heard in the House Education Committee, would give school districts 30 days to cancel a teacher’s payroll deductions for vunion dues after receiving written notification from the teacher.
Under collective bargaining agreements ruling many larger school districts, teachers only may cancel their membership within a two-to-three week “opt-out window” at the beginning of the school year. If they miss the window, they’re obligated to pay dues for the rest of the year.
Becker said that period is too short, and teachers need more flexibility. He said his bill would afford them the extra time.
“For any organization it’s the same playing field (under the proposed legislation) no matter what school district you go to in Colorado,” said Becker. “It’s a 30-day notice and you’re in or out.”
However, Rep. Cherylin Peniston (D-Westminster) said Becker’s bill poses a “turf war” over union membership. She said union dues are akin to a gym membership with legally binding terms. Relaxing the terms would dilute the contractual relationship between teachers and their employers, Peniston said.
“When people sign a contract, they sign it for a certain period of time and they are legally committing themselves,” said Peniston. “Like a gym membership you sign up and you know what you are signing for, and for teachers you actually can get out of teacher organizations for bona fide hardship cases. Now if you are just upset with your organization for the decisions they’ve made–that’s not considered a bona fide hardship case.”
Yet, Libby Moody, a teacher from Falcon School District 49 in Colorado Springs testified in support of the bill, saying she did not have a choice whether or not to join, due to the small opt-in window.
“At the beginning of the year, you are going over new policies,” said Moody. “You’re going over everything required for your classroom, you’re getting paperwork and everything shoved at you that you’re swimming to keep your head above water.”