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Union-Busting Bill Dramatically Defeated in House Vote

March 9, 2024

A bill intended to cripple the Idaho Education Association and its members’ ability to organize was defeated in two dramatic votes on the floor of the Idaho House of Representatives on Thursday.

In a 31-38 midday vote, lawmakers rejected House Bill 602 after nearly half an hour of back-and-forth debate. A second vote to reconsider the original vote was rejected by House members late in the day.

The bill aimed to strip the authority of local school districts to work cooperatively or negotiate in good faith with local chapters of the IEA. Key provisions included significant limits or prohibitions on compensation or work leave related to an educator’s role or membership in the union and the use of school property for union-related meetings or activities.


Idaho Education Association President Layne McInelly said the legislation was a direct response to IEA’s success as “a force for good in our state.” IEA members’ legislative success in recent years includes securing record investments in K-12 public education, winning significant pay increases for all educators and defeating a succession of voucher schemes.

“House Bill 602 was a direct attack on that success. Anti-public education forces at the Statehouse and beyond have grown increasingly frustrated at your union’s ability to foil their plans to unravel public education in this state.” McInelly said in a Friday email to IEA members that is also posted on IEA’s Reporter webpage. “Through this bill, they sought to strip you of your collective influence. Instead, they were handed yet another defeat.”

McInelly called the bill’s defeat “one of the most important legislative victories in the 132-year history of the IEA.”

Sponsored by a trio of North Idaho lawmakers, Sen. Ben Toews (R-Couer d’Alene), Rep. Sage Dixon (R-Ponderay) and Rep. Dale Hawkins (R-Fernwood), House Bill 602 drew opposition from virtually every education stakeholder group of significance and other labor unions in Idaho. The Professional Fire Fighters of Idaho and the Fraternal Order of the Police, the Idaho chapter of the AFL-CIO and the Idaho Brotherhood of Electrical Workers all actively lobbied against this bill. IEA’s partners at the Idaho Association of School Administrators and the Idaho School Boards Association also opposed the legislation.


During Thursday’s floor debate, the bill’s supporters insisted that “this bill is not a bill against teachers. This bill isn’t a bill against unions.”

Its detractors disagreed and pointed out that the legislation was a clear attack on the IEA.

“But folks, trust me, you need to talk with these folks that run the Idaho Education Association. They are looking out for our kids, they are looking out for our teachers,” said Rep. Lori McCann (R-Lewiston). “Those teachers that are talking to me. The big worry is that they can no longer collaborate, meet after school in a classroom to discuss issues that matter to them, matter to their kids and their classrooms. This bill goes way too far.”

Rep. Julie Yamamoto (R-Caldwell) talked about a back-to-school event held by the Vallivue Education Association on school property every year and attended by dozens of families — an event that would have been outlawed by House Bill 602.

“That back-to-school event does such things as it allows for haircuts, dental, clothing, backpacks, school supplies,” said Yamamoto. “Maybe you think parents should do that. And maybe you think churches should do that. But you know, who does that? The teachers, the VEA.”

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