- Julie Chang American-Statesman Staff
The Senate has given preliminary approval of a bill that critics have said would the strip the rights of employee unions to collect dues.
Senate Bill 13 filed by Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, would prohibit the automatic deduction of union dues form the paychecks of governmental employees, including teachers. The bill would not apply to first responders because Huffman said that such unions have not “harassed” employers in Texas.
Senators voted along party lines on Wednesday.
“I am very proud of teachers and public school employees that regularly make sacrifices for our youth. I believe teachers are underpaid and should be paid more. Thus, I must respectfully disagree with the rhetoric that I do not support teachers because I’m sponsoring this bill,” Huffman said.
Among the most vocal opponents of the bill has been teachers’ unions and professional organizations, who have said that the bill serves to weaken the effectiveness of such groups. The Association of Texas Professional Educators have said that the bill specifically targets groups who do not support private school vouchers, which has become a contentious issue this session.
Groups have told lawmakers that teachers’ dues help pay for liability insurance.
Sen. Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston, said that the bill is taking away the rights and conveniences of employees.
“Don’t you agree that a pay check is some person’s property? So why do we want to get into the business of their paychecks and telling them what they can or can’t do with it?” she said.
Other Democratic lawmakers also questioned why Huffman chose certain employees to be exempted.
Huffman said that she didn’t believe that her bill would do anything to keep employees from joining unions. She said that the union officials would come up with workarounds if the bill goes into effect.
“It’s a fight to get the truth out,” Huffman said.