A bill filed Thursday in the N.C. Senate would repeal a law permitting state employee organizations to draft dues automatically from members’ paychecks. Senate Bill 87, State Emps./No Payroll Dues Deduction, was filed by Sens. Ralph Hise, R-Mitchell, Joyce Krawiec, R-Forsyth, Todd Johnson, R-Union, Carl Ford, R-Rowan, and Buck Newton, R-Wilson. Almost alll primary bill sponsors chair powerful appropriations sub-committees. Newton chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“This is a bold move that could potentially be devastating to highly politicized state employee associations like NCAE and SEANC,” said Brian Balfour, senior vice president of research at the John Locke Foundation. “Without the automatic dues deduction, members would need to actively send in payments, and that process will prompt them to pause and think about how their dues money is being used. Many members won’t like that their money is being used to back political campaigns they don’t agree with, and in turn quit their membership.”
North Carolina has been a “Right to Work” state for 75 years. Employees here are free to work in any role without being required to join a union. The North Carolina Association of Educators and the State Employees Association of North Carolina are the largest public employee organizations, collecting dues drawn directly from some members’ paychecks to negotiate public policy on their behalf and offer insurance, discounts, and other benefits.
NCAE is associated with the National Education Association and has had declining N.C. membership in recent years, now representing an estimated 18% of teachers statewide. Dues to the organizations are on a sliding scale depending on an educator’s role, with teachers paying the highest dues, more than $500 annually, and substitutes paying the lowest at around $100 annually.
The group has actively opposed the Republican-led General Assembly, exerting political pressure to fight school choice options like Opportunity Scholarships and expansion of public charter schools. The group also pushed for Gov. Roy Cooper to veto Republican-drafted state budgets, even when there were raises for teachers in them. NCAE was also linked to calls for teacher walkouts in the first years of Republican control of the legislature. More recently, NCAE advocated for extended school closures for in-person learning during the COVID pandemic and opposed the bipartisan Senate Bill 220 to reopen schools. During the academic aftermath, NCAE President Tamika Walker Kelly started a firestorm from parents and teachers when she claimed there was not student learning loss from the closures.
SEANC is the largest public employee organization, representing more than 43,000 state employees and state retirees, with about half of them participating in payroll deduction, according to a 2020 state audit. SEANC has already begun offering members a bank draft alternative.
“By switching to an alternative payment option (APO) you don’t have to worry about
defaulting on your insurance payments or membership dues if the General Assembly
removes our ability to deduct from payroll/pensions. We are cutting out the middle
man to make sure you don’t lose any of the valued benefits and programs you enjoy,” SEANC states in a document outlining the alternative draft program.
The North Carolina Troopers Association is the third-largest public employee organization, representing 1,200 members with 1,086 of them on payroll deduction plan as of 2020.