The leaders of Louisiana’s two teachers unions downplayed the impact of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling Wednesday seen as a major setback for organized labor.
But others who are often at odds with unions here said the decision will trim campaign spending by the Louisiana Association of Educators and Louisiana Federation of Teachers.
The nation's top court, in a long-awaited ruling, held on a 5-4 vote that government workers cannot be forced to contribute to labor unions that represent them in collective bargaining.
Education and other leaders of organized labor blasted the decision, which they said will favor billionaires at the expense of working men and women.
Groups that back sweeping changes in public schools praised the court's ruling, which they said will help curb the influence of labor unions that often oppose those changes.
A seven-line proposal that backers say would help teachers is under fire from Louisiana's two teacher unions.
The opinion directly affects about two dozen states that require public employees to pay fees to labor unions even if the workers choose not to join.
Louisiana has no such requirement. It is also a right-to-work state, which means employees cannot be forced to join a union as a condition of employment.
"I don't think it is going to have much impact on membership in Louisiana," said Debbie Meaux, president of the Louisiana Association of Educators.
The LAE has 18,000-20,000 members.
Meaux said most aid that the LAE gets from its national affiliate – called the National Education Association – is in the form of guaranteed grants.
"We are hoping that NEA is going to keep everything, not business as usual, but we will definitely uphold our mission," she said.
Larry Carter, president of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, said while the ruling will mostly affect states where employees were required to contribute it will also touch Louisiana.
The interim president of one of Louisiana's two teachers unions is a veteran New Orleans educator said to know his way around the hot-button i…
"Anytime there is an impact at the national level it will impact state organizations as well as local organizations," Carter said.
The LFT, which has about 20,000 members, is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers.
House Education Committee Chairwoman Nancy Landry, R-Lafayette, said the ruling means teachers nationally will decide whether to support a union's political agenda.
A battle is shaping up on whether the state should allow local school boards to charge teachers unions and others to collect membership dues.
"The big impact of the decision in Louisiana will come during the next election cycle, as it will reduce the influence that national unions have had on our local elections," Landry said in an email.
Keith Courville, executive director of the Associated Professional Educators of Louisiana, which is not a union, said the ruling will have a devastating impact on the LAE, which he said has already experienced a drop in membership dues in the past five years.
"How much longer can the NEA provide support to an organization with a long term decline in membership and membership dues," Courville said, also in an email.
LAE members pay around $300 per year in dues, with the revenue divided among the national, state and local organizations.
Both Meaux and Shane Riddle, legislative and political director for the LAE, said they doubt the court ruling will lead to a hike in dues to offset revenue drops nationally.
Teacher unions are generally aligned with Democrats, both nationally and in Louisiana.
The LAE and the LFT are major supporters of Gov. John Bel Edwards, the state's lone Democratic statewide official.
Riddle said his group does not get financial help from the NEA on state races but can on contests for the U. S. Congress.
Keith Leger, director of education policy and government affairs for the Council for a Better Louisiana, said the court decision will not have any direct impact in Louisiana.
"However, it is likely that the ruling will result in the teacher unions not being able to fund political campaigns in Louisiana as much as they have in the past," Leger said in a text message response to questions.