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AEA Wins Injunction Against Educator Gag Bill

On September 23, 2011, U.S. District Court Judge G. Murray Snow granted the Arizona Education Association’s (AEA) request for a preliminary injunction of Senate Bill (SB) 1365, a law that restricts the way teachers pay their annual dues and contributions to their professional associations.

Judge Snow found that, based on the evidence, SB 1365 violates the first amendment rights of teachers in Arizona.

Judge Snow stated that “By imposing its burdens on the political speech of some unions and other organizations and not imposing like costs upon other similarly-situated unions, or on other organizations that can use the funds for political activity, the law is underinclusive and discriminates according to speaker.”  Moreover, since “[t]he loss of First Amendment freedoms, for even minimal periods of time, unquestionably constitutes irreparable injury… Attorney General Horne is preliminarily enjoined from enforcing Senate Bill 1365.”

“Today’s ruling is a victory for AEA and for free speech for Arizona’s teachers,” said Andrew F. Morrill, President of the Arizona Education Association.  “When the government tries to muzzle the voice of teachers and violate their constitutional rights, the AEA will respond to protect and defend teachers’ rights. Our voice for quality public schools will not be silenced.”

“It’s time our state leaders stop attacking Arizona’s teachers and students and start working on the issues that are important to the citizens of Arizona:  quality public education, job growth, and economic development.”

AEA, with other public unions, filed a lawsuit contesting the constitutionality of SB 1365 in May.  This bill, passed by the Arizona Legislature and signed by Governor Jan Brewer in April, places restrictions on payroll deductions for specific labor unions, including AEA, but excludes public safety employee unions and other entities from its requirements, and in doing so, SB 1365 favors the speech of one group of employees over the less favorable speech of others.  Political observers believe this law was passed in response to AEA’s community organizing to fight cuts to public education and speak up for a fair and equitable tax structure.

Judge Snow’s injunction is effective while the case is proceeding, and AEA is confident that SB 1365’s viewpoint discrimination will be permanently enjoined at the conclusion of the litigation.

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