I want to clear up several misconceptions addressed in a recent opinion piece, “Government shouldn’t be in practice of collecting employees’ union dues.”

The author made the assumption that Louisiana pays a million dollars to unions annually, but what he failed to articulate is that this money comes directly from workers’ earnings, not the taxpayers.

Having membership dues deducted from one’s paychecks is a choice — one among others, but nonetheless a choice — afforded to Louisiana workers. The decision on how an individual chooses to spend his hard-earned dollars shouldn’t be dictated by government.

Membership dues deduction is only one of hundreds of locally approved automatic payroll deductions from which an employee can choose. It is neither a special privilege nor a burden on taxpayers, as it is an extremely time-efficient, costless service available to credit unions, insurance companies, charitable organizations, and many other recognized vendors.

Louisiana’s public sector workers are well-informed and know what services their union dues pay for. A worker can become a member or end his membership in a union as he pleases. No professional organization forces an individual to maintain membership if he is displeased with the associated costs or the services provided.

Let’s address the real intent of this legislation: anti-union groups’ attempts to silence the voices of those organizations that are the most outspoken opponents to proposals that serve the interests of someone other than the citizens of this state.

Freedom of speech and association are critical to a representative form of government. Living in a right-to-work state, it is a worker’s choice to join a union, and many choose to do so because union representatives advocate for them when they are unable. Others choose to join professional organizations because of the many other benefits of membership including professional development, team building, networking, access to classroom funding through grants, community charity work, but most importantly, a sense of unity within a professional community.

If passed, HB 418 will create obstacles for workers to join — and ultimately maintain membership in — the professional organization of their choice.

Our elected officials are charged with protecting our rights, not taking them away. Louisiana is currently in the midst of a devastating budget crisis, perhaps certain lawmakers should have higher priorities on their list than ending public servants’ access to an elected service.

Debbie Meaux

president, Louisiana Association of Educators

Baton Rouge