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Under the Dome - January 23, 2013

It's not really about political activity; it's about getting rid of public sector unions

I know we've been saying it but we were surprised that the lobbyist for the Chamber said it to the committee - "We need this bill so we can get rid of public sector unions."

Kind of shocking that they'd admit it publicly but there it was and it was repeated by other proponents of HB 2032 including a representative of the National Federation of Independent Businesses and Senator Greg Smith (R-Overland Park). All three made it clear that this legislation needs to be expanded so that public sector unions are gone. Smith told the committee that he didn't think there should be public sector unions and when asked about other payroll deductions such as United Way, told them he thought it would be okay to eliminate payroll deduction for United Way contributions as well.

Speaking on the other side - opponents to the bill - were representatives of a number of employee organizations including KNEA. United Steelworkers, AFL-CIO, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Kansas Organization of State Employees, and the Building Trades unions all rose to support a worker's right to join a union and collectively advocate for the improvement of their professions.

Teachers were represented by David Schauner, General Counsel of KNEA, Marais de Cygnes teacher Anna Moon Bradley, and retired Shawnee Mission teacher Rod Siegele.

Proponents tried to suggest that union members were only members because they were pressured into joining and then apparently forced to stay. But Anna Moon Bradley told the committee, "Local teachers associations pool their money through dues to promote education. They use their collective voice to share their message about their great schools and supporting students and teachers in their locals."

Schauner began his testimony by quoting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., "Our lives begin to end the day we remain silent about the things that matter".

He went on to explain why this bill is such an onerous idea:

"Participation in the political process is a thing that matters. The right to act collectively matters, the expression of dissenting political points of view matters. It matters that we as a democracy have decided that our political dissent is the bedrock of our continued success as a nation. When those in power decide to punish those who have publically disagreed then we are lost as a democracy. It matters that the right to act in concert with those who hold shared values. It matters that the nation's founding fathers demanded the first and fifth amendments to the U.S. Constitution. It matters that those who teach our children participate in politics. It matters that all citizens be treated equally in the eyes of the law."  

The Committee is expected to work the bill tomorrow.

Click here for the names and email addresses of the committee members. Let them know that teachers expect to have the same constitutional rights to assembly and speech enjoyed by corporations!

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