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N.C. Republicans defend late-night vote on teachers union dues

January 5, 2012 |  8:40 am

Several states have moved to undermine unions in recent months, but usually in the cold light of day.

In North Carolina early Thursday morning, Republicans in the state Legislature used an after-hours maneuver to strip the state’s largest teachers union of automatic deductions of union dues from members’ paychecks.

State Democrats cried foul, accusing Republicans of an underhanded attempt to undermine unions in the middle of the night while no one was paying attention.

In an unscheduled session that followed a special legislative session called to deal with another issue, Republicans held a vote at 1:12 a.m. to override the Democratic governor's veto of a bill that would deny union dues paycheck deductions for the North Carolina Assn. of Educators. Two Democrats joined in the 69-to-45 vote, the News and Observer of Raleigh reported.

The vote came after legislators watched the Orange Bowl college football game on a video monitor that normally displays legislative vote totals, and after they distributed literature on legislative issues unrelated to the teachers union.

North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue"The Republicans in the General Assembly didn’t have the votes to get what they wanted legally," Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue said in a 1:16 a.m. statement.

"So, in the dark of night, they engaged in an unprecedented, unconstitutional power grab," Perdue said. "I am saddened for the people of North Carolina that Republicans abused their power and chose this destructive path."

Republicans said the vote abolished preferential treatment for a special interest -- the teachers union, the News and Observer reported.  House Speaker Thom Tillis, a Republican, said the late-night vote was transparent and that the public should have known such a vote was likely in response to Perdue’s veto.

House Democratic leader Joe Hackney said the early morning vote violated a pledge not to consider any legislation other than the state’s Racial Justice Act. That controversial law, which would allow convicted murderers to appeal their sentences by alleging racial bias, is opposed by state Republicans.

Wednesday’s special session was called to deal with that issue. Lawmakers appointed a special committee to study racial discrimination in capital cases.

The vote to restrict the teachers union follows last year's moves by politicians in other states, most notably Wisconsin and Ohio, to weaken the power of unions. This week, Indiana became the latest Midwestern battleground over labor law, with the state legislature scheduled to consider a right-to-work bill

Right-to-work laws, already on the books in 22 states, mostly in the Midwest and South, prevent workers in unionized shops from being forced to pay union dues as a condition of employment. Indiana Republicans say the law would make the state more attractive to businesses.

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-- David Zucchino in Durham, N.C.

Photo: North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue, shown in an October 2011 file photo, condemned the late-night move by North Carolina Republicans. Credit: John Clark/The Gaston Gazette/Associated Press

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