After court ruling, Sequim’s educators union staying united

Despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s Janus ruling in June, Sequim’s local teacher union doesn’t seem too concerned about its effect on its membership.

On June 27, the court overturned a 1977 ruling in Janus vs. AFSCME that says public sector employee unions — such as those that represent educators, firefighters and police officers — cannot require non-members to pay fair share fees used toward collective bargaining.

The ruling decided that laws requiring non-member public employees to pay fees to unions representing them violates First Amendment rights of free speech.

Former Sequim Education Association (SEA) president Diana Piersoll said there might be some impact on Sequim’s teacher union membership, but for the most part its members are staying united.

“I think there’s going to be a small impact,” Piersoll said. “We’re a small union, but we’re pretty tight knit.”

Aaron Reno, SEA’s new president, said he thinks the issue is still new and the union may see some small decline in the future.

“I feel like (the ruling) was kind of unfair towards labor unions,” he said. “The part I feel that is unfair is that non-union members get to reap the benefits even though they’re not paying for it.”

“Anytime you give people the option not to pay money and get the same service you’re going to get people that opt out,” he said.

Piersoll said the Washington Education Association (WEA), the largest education union in Washington state, warned that Washington teacher unions could lose about 10 percent of its members.

“WEA did say prepare to have a large group exit, but we haven’t seen that in Sequim locally,” Piersoll said.

WEA president Kim Mead made a statement on WEA’s website on June 27 about the ruling’s effect on Washington education unions: “The Court decision comes at the same time hundreds of WEA local affiliates are negotiating contracts with their school districts and are working together to meet the needs of students in each community. Our freedom to negotiate a fair contract is at the core of what it means to be a union member in Washington.”

In Sequim School District, Piersoll said there are about 193 SEA members. She said so far only two members have opted out of paying union fees.

“There are going to be a few people that are going to choose to not join the union but overall our members understand the benefits,” Piersoll said.

“Anything we negotiate or bargain (teachers) get that, whether you’re a member or non-member, she said. “If we negotiate for example a 10 percent raise, then non-fee members will benefit from that 10 percent increase.”

She said what non members don’t receive if they opt out of paying the union dues is representation; for example, if there are accusations made against a teacher for misconduct, they will not be able to receive union representation.

Piersoll also is part of the collective bargaining unit for SEA and said contract negotiations are ongoing at this point and that negotiations are going well so far.