Tuesday, February 7, 2017
With Ninth Supreme Court Justice Waiting in the Wings, Lawsuit Revives Movement to Eliminate Mandatory Teacher Union Dues
A little over a year ago, teacher unions across the nation were bracing for a serious blow. The Supreme Court had granted certiorari in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. The case involved a challenge to a California statute that required all teachers to contribute to the union. Non-union members could opt-out of certain fees, but all teachers were required to pay those fees associated with the basic negotiation of the teachers' contract because all teachers benefit from that contract. Plaintiffs argued that these forced union dues violates their First Amendment rights. While the Ninth Circuit had upheld the fees, oral argument strongly suggested the Court would strike down the statute. Before the Court could issue a decision, however, Justice Scalia passed away. The Court came to a 4-4 tie, the effect of which was to leave the lower court decision in place. The Orange County Register reports:
Eight California teachers filed a federal lawsuit Monday against their school districts and the California Teachers Association, challenging mandatory union membership and the union dues that come with it.
“Our basic goal is to regain our power, our speech and our right to not associate with an organization that harms us and our students,” said Ryan Yohn, 38, lead plaintiff and an eighth-grade American history teacher at Stacey Middle School in the Westminster School District.
The Center for Individual Rights, a nonprofit libertarian law firm, filed the lawsuit in federal court Monday in Los Angeles on behalf of Yohn and other teachers, including Allen Osborn with the Riverside Unified School District, against various school district superintendents and unions.
They suit aims to resurrect issues raised in an earlier case that ended last year with a 4-4 deadlock before the U.S. Supreme Court.
“It’s really the same case with different plaintiffs,” said Terence Pell, the center’s president.
. . . .
Union leaders, meanwhile, said a decision against them could impact government workers beyond the teachers’ groups, threatening union membership across the country.
“Unions are made up of teachers, firefighters and other working people,” said Claudia Briggs, spokeswoman for the California Teachers Association. “Whatever happens to us happens to everybody else.”
“If a politically driven agenda trumps that hard work, the ones who suffer will be our children and others who benefit from the service of public employees,” she said.