Thursday, June 15, 2023

TEA files lawsuit over new Tennessee law blocking automatic dues withdrawals

By Jon Styf, The Center Square, Jun 13, 2023 - The Tennessee Education Association has filed a lawsuit over a law that eliminates the option for automatic payroll dues deductions for its public employee members.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed the bill in May to end the collection of dues for professional employee organizations as an automatic payroll withdrawal, effective July 1.

The bill also included a minimum teacher pay increase incrementally from the current $40,000 to $50,000 for the 2026-27 school year by bumping the minimum to $42,000 in the fall, $44,500 the next year and continuing to rise.

“Sliding a payroll dues deduction ban in a bill to raise the minimum pay was a cynical attack on Tennessee teachers. The ban was mean-spirited, and the way it passed was unconstitutional,” said TEA President Tanya Coats. “We filed this suit to protect the rights of our members and highlight the missteps made by the administration when they pushed this attack on teachers. We look forward to our day in court.”

The Lee Administration and the Tennessee Department of Education are defendants in the lawsuit, which claims the bill violates a single-subject requirement for bills, the details weren’t included in the bill’s caption and doesn’t disclose the bill repeals the Professional Educators Collaborative Conferencing Act, the state’s negotiation law.

The group said thousands of members utilize the automatic withdrawals.

“The law is unconstitutional, and we filed suit to protect the rights of our membership to have their voluntary dues deducted from their paychecks, something they have been able to do for many decades as a matter of convenience and at no cost to school districts,” said Steve McCloud, TEA’s chief attorney. “Singling out public school educators, who are mostly female, and treating them differently than other public servants is just wrong and serves no public purpose. Tennessee’s public school teachers deserve the same respect our laws give to state employees, firefighters, and law enforcement.” 

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