Public school employees’ First Amendment rights to free speech bill approved

Mike Seals - March 4, 2021 11:16 pm

OKLAHOMA CITY – The full Senate has approved legislation to protect the First Amendment free speech rights of public school employees.  Senate Bill 634, by Sen. Julie Daniels, R-Bartlesville, requires school districts to ask employees once a year if they want to continue to have association dues deducted from their paychecks.

Daniels said her legislation springs from the portion of the Janus v. AFSCME decision, which said employers must fully inform employees of their rights and, on a regular basis, must give them a chance to opt out of paying dues.  There must be evidence of consent, so the bill provides for a reauthorization form to be signed by the employee and returned to the employer.

The Janus decision applies to professional associations which are direct affiliates of a national organization. In Oklahoma, these are the Oklahoma Education Association (OEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT).

“Included in our First Amendment free speech rights is a right not to be compelled to support speech with which we disagree.  Since groups like the OEA, AFT and their national organizations are engaged in a variety of political activities, this reauthorization reminds employees of this aspect of their free speech rights.”

Under SB 634, employers would be required to send employees a reauthorization form for dues on an annual basis, which the employee must sign and return in order for automatic deduction of dues to continue.

The measure now moves to the House of Representatives for further consideration.  Rep. Terry O’Donnell, R-Catoosa, is the House principal author of SB 634.

For more information, contact Sen. Julie Daniels at 405-521-5634 or email [email protected].

 

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