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Ky. judge strikes down law targeting teachers union dues

Teachers protested at the state capitol building during "sickouts" in March 2019.

Teachers unions and other state employee organizations can continue collecting dues through payroll deduction for now. Meanwhile, Attorney General Daniel Cameron has filed an appeal.

Franklin Circuit Court Judge Thomas Wingate ruled against a 2023 Kentucky law that prohibited teachers unions and most other state employee labor organizations from collecting membership dues through payroll deduction.

Wingate said the law, known as Senate Bill 7, enforced an “unconstitutional distinction” between labor organizations, because it applied the prohibition to all state employee organizations except police unions and firefighter unions.

“The classification … is one that can best be summed up as favoritism for certain labor organizations performing the same services as non-exempted labor organizations,” Wingate wrote in his Aug. 30 opinion.

Republican lawmakers who backed the measure argued it was necessary to prevent the appearance that public resources are being used to support the partisan political activity of labor organizations.

During legislative discussion, GOP supporters often lamented the more than $770,000 spent by the Jefferson County Teachers Association backing incumbent school board candidates against conservative and right-wing challengers.

That funding came from a mix of union dues and private donations by teachers and others to the JCTA PAC, Better Schools Kentucky.

JCTA president Brent McKim called Wingate’s decision an “accurate ruling.”

“Employees should have the right to make their own choices about payroll deduction,” McKim said.

“This is money that they have earned, it’s their money and they get to choose what payroll categories they want it to go to.”

McKim said the vast majority of member dues go to pay JCTA staff, who advocate for members. Members pay about $100 a month in dues.

The law wouldn’t have impacted JCTA, the state’s largest teachers’ union, until 2026, when the organization’s contract expires.

Meanwhile, Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron has already filed an appeal. Cameron is also the GOP nominee for this year’s governor’s race. The primary sponsor of the measure is Henderson Republican Sen. Robby Mills, Cameron’s running mate.

Jess is LPM's Education and Learning Reporter. Jess has reported on K-12 education for public radio audiences for the past five years, from the swamps of Southeast Louisiana at WWNO, New Orleans Public Radio, to the mountains of North Carolina at WUNC in Chapel Hill. Her stories have aired on national programs and podcasts, including NPR's All Things Considered, Morning Edition, and Weekend Edition, Here & Now and Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting. A Louisville native, Jess has her bachelor's degree from Centre College, and her masters in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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