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Expert Says Washington Teacher Negotiations May Help Unions Prove Their Value After Janus

Ashley Gross
Seattle teachers and other school staff at a general membership meeting, where they voted to authorize a strike.

The Supreme Court dealt a blow to public-sector unions earlier this summer when it ruled in the Janus case that government employees no longer have to pay fees to their unions.

But labor experts say the high level of teacher bargaining in Washington state right now may help unions avoid some of the negative impacts from that case.

Some union leaders in the Puget Sound area have said the Janus decision has been in the back of their minds at the bargaining table.

Bradley Marianno, assistant professor of educational policy and leadership at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, said that as many teachers’ unions reach agreements for sizeable pay increases, it’s a good chance to remind members what the union is doing for them.

“This is an opportunity for the Washington Education Association and their state affiliates to demonstrate their benefit to their membership,” Marianno said.

Lynne Dodson, secretary-treasurer of the Washington State Labor Council, shares that view.

“It is a good reminder in this time of Janus about how important the union is and the teachers coming together in order to negotiate for a fair share, because they wouldn’t be getting the increases that they’re getting in some districts if they weren’t in unions,” she said.

Marianno has studied what happened to teachers’ unions in Wisconsin and Michigan after those states enacted right-to-work laws. He said union membership dropped significantly.

Rich Wood, spokesman for the Washington Education Association, said only a minimal number of members have stopped paying union dues since the Janus case in June.

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.