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Federal Judge Hands Teachers Union A Win In Its Battle With Indiana Legislature

Reagan-appointed judge throws out state laws making it easier for teachers to quit unions or stop paying dues.

A federal judge struck down two Indiana laws requiring teachers and schools corporations to comply with new laws to deduct union fee from their paycheck.

Senior U.S. District Judge Sarah Evans Barker ruled that state was permanently enjoined from enforcing Senate Enrolled Act 251 and Senate Enrolled Act 297.

View into a classroom of the Neue Waldorfschule Dresden. The court ruling gave teachers an option to opt out of the union. ALLE RECHTE VORBEHALTEN/BALLOTPEDIA

A group of teacher unions challenged the newly implemented laws in court on the ground that the statutory requirements violated the First Amendment to freedom of association and speech.

Baker ruled that the plaintiffs were denied the motion for oral arguments, summary of judgment, and permanent injunction pertaining to free speech and association.

The defendant was granted a motion for summary of judgment on the union’s First Amendment on the freedom of association claim.

Barker wrote:

“Here, SEA 251 and SEA 297 single out a specific group—union-supporting teachers—to subject to additional procedural requirements in order to take advantage of payroll deductions for union dues, but for no other state employees seeking wage assignments. The State in singling out one specific group whose identity and viewpoints are sufficiently intertwined to be synonymous, and to require that group and only that group to jump through additional hoops and move through complex bureaucratic ‘mother may I’-type steps in order to access the payroll dues deduction process for union dues seems to have done so based on this group’s specific purposes and views. Accordingly, we hold that SEA 251 and SEA 297 do, indeed, discriminate on the basis of viewpoint. … Given the serious under inclusivity of SEA 251 and SEA 297, the State has failed to show that the challenged statutes are narrowly tailored to further its interest either in furthering educational goals to benefit students in our public schools or in complying with Janus, including ensuring ‘individuals are aware of their rights before they opt in to union membership and execute a wage assignment.’… Accordingly, we hold that the challenged statutes cannot withstand constitutional scrutiny.”

Barker, a nominee of President Ronald Reagan (R), joined the court in 1984 and has served on senior status since 2014.

As of April 13, no appeal had been filed. The case name and number are Anderson Federation of Teachers et al. v. Rokita et al. (No. 1:21-cv-01767).

The law was created by the Indiana state legislators to collection teacher union dues and required a three-step process that would involve deductions from their checks.

Unions and teachers who filed the lawsuit argued that it would unfairly target teachers and making it hard for unions to collect their dues.

Barker said in her ruling that Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita failed to justify the three-step process for collecting teacher dues. School districts are required to email their employees who have union deductions giving them an option not to join the union and stopping deductions from their paychecks.

State legislators amended the statue passing Senate Enrolled Act 297 in 2022 to modify requirements from Senate Enrolled Act 251 applicable to the collective bargaining agreement or contracts that were entered, renewed, extended or modified after June 30, 2022.

Barker said SEA 251 and @97 were written to apply solely to teachers choosing to pay their dues through deductions, not to any other category of state employees.

Produced in association with Ballotpedia

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