Public worker unions are notoriously powerful as a political force in Democratic Party politics and at many state capitols. Nowhere was that more true than in Alabama, where the teachers union’s long-serving lobbyist, the late Paul Hubbert, wielded more power over education policy than any elected official. This power came from a state law that authorized local units of government to withhold dues from teachers’ paychecks and deliver that money directly to the union, where it could be used for political purposes. This dues checkoff system gave Hubbert an unfair advantage at the state capitol over groups representing parents and taxpayers, who must rely on voluntary contributions.
But Paul Hubbert’s cozy relationship with the state legislature ended with the landslide election of 2010 when Republicans gained a majority in both houses. Alabama’s outgoing Republican governor, Bob Riley, called a special session at which the newly elected legislature passed Act 761 to repeal dues checkoff privileges for employees of public school districts. Hubbert and his union filed a series of lawsuits aimed at getting the new law nullified, claiming that it somehow violated teachers’ rights of free speech and freedom of association, but the Eleventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals shut down most of the union’s far-fetched legal defenses.
When Act 761 is in full-effect, the AEA will suffer a sharp reduction in its revenue.
Listen to the radio commentary here: