fbpx Skip to content

Tennessee teachers union drops lawsuit over dues deductions law 

Teachers unions are up in arms about recently passed state laws which prohibit unions from automatically taking membership dues out of public employees’ paychecks in Florida and Tennessee. Unions sued these states over the dues deductions laws, but news broke this month that the Tennessee teachers union gave up its fight against the new law.  

The Tennessee Education Association (TEA) dropped its lawsuit, which challenged Senate Bill 281 on constitutional grounds. The bill, which was signed into law this year, bars the union from automatically deducting membership dues from teachers’ paychecks and also gives teachers a pay raise.  

When the union filed the lawsuit in June, it claimed that the law was unconstitutional because it “singled out teachers as the only public employees in Tennessee prohibited from using voluntary payroll deductions.” At the time of the lawsuit’s filing, TEA President Tanya Coats said the law was “a cynical attack on Tennessee teachers” and was “mean-spirited.”  

The union also argued the law was unconstitutional because the law combined the ban on paycheck dues deductions with teachers’ pay raises and would violate the “single-subject requirement” in the state’s constitution. Meaning, the union believed that the Tennessee Constitution limits laws to a single subject and the law combined two subjects (paycheck dues deductions and teacher pay raises).  

However, the Davidson County Chancery Court, composed of three judges from different counties, appeared to disagree with TEA’s claims, which led TEA to drop its lawsuit. The judges wrote, in part, “We hold that the Plaintiffs (TEA) are unlikely to succeed on the merits of either claim. The Act does not impermissibly embrace more than one subject.”  

But dropping the lawsuit did not deter Coats from claiming the TEA “is still confident in the merits of our case and believes we would have ultimately received a favorable ruling.” Coats added, “But TEA decided not to pursue the lawsuit because it is unlikely that the court would rule in the case this school year.” 

Supporters of the dues deduction law pointed out that the law will prevent unions from using the government to collect membership dues, which unions like TEA would use to fund political causes and campaigns.  

J.C. Bowman, executive director of union alternative Professional Educators of Tennessee, said, “Teachers’ unions consistently rank among the top spenders on politics. Their goal is not improved public education, but rather power, money, and influence.”  

He added, “Most of those dollars go to candidates on the left. It is easy to observe that teacher unions have donated millions to political campaigns, mostly going to Democratic candidates and committees.” 

Spencer Irvine

Spencer Irvine is Senior Writer & Researcher at Americans for Fair Treatment, a community of current and former public-sector employees offering resources and support to exercise their First Amendment rights. Spencer previously worked in state government, in communications for a non-profit advocacy organization, and held various administrative and communications roles at a media analysis organization. He has a master’s degree in public administration from George Washington University and a bachelor’s degree in international relations from Brigham Young University. He lives in Arizona with his wife, is an avid history buff and enjoys touring historic sites.