California Non-Union Teachers Sue Unions Over Coercive Political Funding

Fred Lucas | April 30, 2013 | 5:40pm EDT
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(AP Photo)

( – California teachers who say they are tired of paying for political causes they do not support – such as Democratic campaigns and gay and lesbian conferences -- are suing the National Education Association, the California Teachers Association, and 10 local union affiliate organizations.

The Center for Individual Rights, a public interest legal group in Washington, D.C., filed the lawsuit Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California in Los Angeles on behalf of 10 teachers from California and the Christian Educators Association.

“The union spends millions of teachers’ hard-earned monies supporting causes and candidates that many of us oppose,” said Rebecca Friedrichs, one of the plaintiffs, in a statement. “The union is free to press its agenda, but individual teachers should not be forced to pay for it. It is shocking to me and many other teachers that union officials have the power by law to spend our wages to press for causes that many of us oppose on moral, fiscal, or philosophical grounds.”

One of the key issues of the legal action is the state’s “agency shop” policy, which requires every public school teacher – including non-union members – to pay up to $1,000 per year for the union’s collective bargaining efforts. The plaintiffs argue that these compulsory subsidies for political activity violates their First Amendment right to free speech and free association.

The California Teachers Association (CTA), a member of the NEA, publishes The California Educator, which the Center for Individual Rights calls a “highly political magazine.” The CTA further uses these fees to advocate for homosexual causes such as the “GLBT Conference,” according to the CIR news release announcing the lawsuit. That’s on top of millions of dollars contributed to Democratic politicians.

The CTA website promotes a “May Day action for immigration reform” on its front page.

(AP Photo)

“Forcing educators to financially support causes that run contrary to their political and policy beliefs violates their First Amendment rights to free expression and association and cannot withstand First Amendment scrutiny,” said Michael A. Carvin, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs. “The Supreme Court questioned the continued constitutionality of ‘agency shop’ laws last year in the Knox decision.”

The California Teachers Association reportedly is working on a media response. left phone and e-mail messages with the NEA on the matter. As this story was posted, neither group had responded.

The plaintiff news release points to last year’s Supreme Court case of Knox vs. Service Employees International Union. The court ruled that the SEIU in California violated the First Amendment rights of its nonunion members by forcing them to pay a 25 percent increase in union dues without their consent to help fight ballot initiatives in the State.

Writing for the majority, Justice Samuel Alito said: “Because a public sector union takes many positions during collective bargaining that have powerful political and civic consequences, the compulsory fees constitute a form of compelled speech and association that imposes a significant impingement on First Amendment rights.”

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