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Ban on Payroll Deductions for Teacher Union Upheld

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Despite a recent setback in a federal appeals court, the South Carolina Education Association plans to continue fighting the legislature's decision to authorize payroll dues deductions for the state employees' association, but not for the teachers' organization, the union's president said last week.

The teachers' union sued the state last year, after the legislature passed a bill in 1987 allowing payroll deductions specifically for membership dues to the South Carolina State Employees Association.

The teachers' union also sought the right to make payroll deductions, but without success, said Sheila Gallagher, president of the scea.

In its suit, the union argued that the legislature's decision violated union members' constitutional rights to free speech and equal protection under the law.

The Aug. 29 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit reversed a decision in favor of the teachers' union by U.S. District Judge Matthew J. Perry.

Judge Perry found that the legislature had violated union members' rights and ordered the state and all school districts to extend payroll deductions to the scea.

Gov. Carroll A. Campbell Jr. appealed the ruling, however, on grounds that the 1987-88 legislature had never actually considered extending the dues deductions to the teachers' union.

"There was no amendment to the bill," said Mark Elam, the Governor's senior legal counsel.

Ms. Gallagher said she believed the teachers' union had been discriminated against because it has been "outspoken on educational issues and in the political field supporting candidates."

"We really see no difference in what the organizations are doing," Ms. Gallagher said of the teachers' and state employees' groups. "The only thing different is we're more vocal than they are."

In its decision, the appeals court found that the employees' organization is a "general interest" association open to all state workers, while the teachers' union is a "special interest" group open only to public-school employees.

Therefore, the court ruled, the legislature's actions "were reasonable and based on rational distinctions between employee groups and between employers involved."--ab

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