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Critics say Texas bill could hurt teacher unions

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As Texas lawmakers get ready to head back to Austin for a special session, some Borderland teachers’ unions say they will be keeping a close eye on one bill in particular.

Senate Bill 13 would end automatic payroll deductions for some union and non-union organizations. Republicans who passed the bill say the deductions cost taxpayers about $1 million each year.

Gov. Greg Abbott even named the bill as one of his top priorities for the upcoming special session.

However, critics say the bill is a union-busting tactic similar to what happened in Wisconsin in 2011.

“It's basically just an attack on educators and the freedom to choose where they spend their money,” said Arlinda Valencia with the Ysleta Teachers Association.

Valencia spoke to KFOX14 while attending the National Education Association conference in Boston. She says this bill would be bad for her group and many others in the Borderland.

“They’re trying to crush us is what they're trying to do. If you stop our union dues or our association dues, we would lose our membership overnight because it would go into effect immediately,” Valencia said.

The bill does not affect unions for emergency responders, meaning police officers, firefighters and other first responders would not be affected.

"They're picking and choosing as to who they want to basically damage,” Valencia said.

Texas State Rep. Joe Moody says the bill is more about politics that saving taxpayer money.

“It's a solution in search of a problem where a problem doesn't exist,” Moody said.

Moody says there are already laws that protect taxpayer money, such as with teachers’ unions.

“The government code already for today allows for the independent school district to charge the association to offset that cost,” Moody said.

Moody believes the bill cherry-picks some unions to hurt while leaving others unscathed.

“Why are we doing it to some and not to others? If you have them, we should be fair about it and right now the system is a fair one so I just don't see a need to change any of this,” Moody said.

However, at least one teacher’s union is already bracing for the backlash. Ross Moore from the El Paso American Federation of Teachers says he was worried a previous version of the bill would pass in 2015 and started preparing.

“After that session I made a conscious decision to move my local (union) over to alternate dues collection. So if it passes, this is a very bad bill, it will hurt some folks, but my local and EPISD will be fully functional and provide all the services that my members have come to expect,” Moore said.

Moore says he’s already converted about 57 percent of his members to alternate payment methods such as paying for three, six or nine months at a time.

Moore says he’s working to make sure the bill will not be the end of his union and he is encouraging others to do the same.

“We're going to be here, we're ready for this,” Moore said.

The special session begins on July 18.

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