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Union Membership Steady As San Diego Teachers Head Back To School Post-Janus

People gather at the Supreme Court awaiting a decision in an Illinois union d...

Photo by J. Scott Applewhite AP

Above: People gather at the Supreme Court awaiting a decision in an Illinois union dues case, Janus v. AFSCME, on Monday.

The Supreme Court’s recent ruling on union fees will cost San Diego’s teachers union more than $350,000 this year.

In Janus v. AFSCME, the court decided public sector unions can’t charge non-members agency fees — or so-called “fair share fees” — to help cover the cost of representation. Unions must represent anyone in a union-covered position, whether they’re a member or not.

The San Diego Education Association had about 350 non-members paying $1,000 annually, said association President Kisha Borden, and 10 out of about 6,000 dues-paying members have ended their memberships since the ruling.

Without that revenue, the union will rein in spending and won’t fill two vacant positions — a contract specialist who fields phone calls from members with contract questions and an organizer who helps school site representatives.

“We’ve taken the schools that were covered by our organizer and spread them out among the other (four) organizers. Our board members are also reaching out to those school sites to provide extra support,” Borden said. “So I think as an organization we’ve worked together to make sure all of our members are getting what they need.”

Borden echoes what her colleagues across the country are saying: The ruling has reinvigorated members.

“We just see it as an opportunity to rally our members and to work together in the fight against all those who want to see public education dismantled,” she said, adding that conservative groups such as Freedom Foundation have been sending flyers to members’ homes encouraging them to leave the union.

Eric Heins, president of the California Teachers Association, said such political vitriol has actually encouraged some non-members to join after the ruling.

“They sense that we’re under attack and that they’re attacking our ability to advocate for our students,” he said. “And that’s going to get your dander up as a teacher.”

The CTA doesn’t yet have data on how membership has shaped up since the ruling. Its budget is not public, but a spokesman said the organization has not made any budget cuts despite losing $7 million in agency fees.

The San Diego Education Association has seen few members leave since the Supreme Court ruling on public sector unions, but it will have to tighten its belt.

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