A lawsuit from a conservative think tank argues that teachers in California were booted out of their union after complaining that dues were deducted from their paycheck unconstitutionally — but that the union kept on deducting the membership fees anyway.
“California teachers this week filed a class-action lawsuit against the California Teachers Association alleging the union violated their First Amendment rights by continuing to deduct union dues from their wages over their repeatedly stated objections,” stated a news release from the Freedom Foundation, issued last week.
“The suit, filed on Monday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, claims CTA operatives pressured the teachers to join the union without informing them of their constitutional rights. Last June the U.S. Supreme Court in Janus v. AFSCME ruled that public-sector workers cannot be compelled to financially support a union as a condition of employment without a showing that the employee provided ‘clear’ and ‘affirmative’ consent for union dues deductions.”
According to one of the teachers in the lawsuit, the dues total over $1,500 a year.
“These dues are a negative financial impact to a lot of teachers who live in the Bay Area where there is a high cost of living,” special education teacher Bethany Mendez said, according to The Associated Press.
The five teachers involved in the suit claim that they were never told of the Janus decision by the CTA and “that the paperwork — which included language purportedly making dues payments irrevocable — was simply routine,” the Freedom Foundation release stated.
“Later, when the teachers attempted to opt out, the union responded by terminating their formal membership, but continuing to deduct dues from their paychecks.”
In the Freedom Foundation release, Mariah Gondeiro-Watt, a Freedom Foundation attorney, said that was contrary to the Supreme Court’s intent.
“The Janus ruling stated unambiguously that unions and government employers cannot collect dues from public employees until they affirmatively and knowingly authorize the deductions,” she said.
“An employee who joins a union and pays dues is, by definition, waiving a right guaranteed by the First Amendment.
“The court emphasized that the employee must fully understand the choice they’re making. But how could teachers who signed the CTA’s misleading form prior to Janus have understood they were being asked to waive a right that hadn’t yet been recognized?
“And for teachers that have signed up after Janus, the CTA has made no effort to get the knowing and affirmative waiver required by the Court.”
Now, this could be a matter of the school not adjusting the paychecks to reflect the lack of deduction. However, if that were the case, the union or school could have easily rectified the situation and returned the money.
If that had happened, there wouldn’t be any grounds for a lawsuit to begin with — and one would hope the Freedom Foundation would know better than to pursue a baseless suit in court.
The suit seeks “compensatory, declaratory and injunctive relief.” The CTA isn’t the only defendant in the lawsuit; the National Education Association, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and various local school districts and unions are also named.
Of course, the CTA wouldn’t characterize the lawsuit quite the way the Freedom Foundation would:
“This is just another lawsuit from the Freedom Foundation to continue the attack on public education and public employees,” California Teacher Association spokeswoman Claudia Briggs said, according to the AP.
You may notice this isn’t necessarily a denial of any of the issues raised in the suit, merely a note that the Freedom Foundation tends to act against public sector unions. That’s true, but not necessarily relevant. It merely notes that the Freedom Foundation has a certain political leaning.
So does the CTA, of course.
“A few years ago, then-California Teachers Association President Dean Vogel said that about 35 percent of his union’s membership was Republican, which is roughly the way the rest of the state lines up politically. That means there are about 100,000 right-of-center teachers in the Golden State,” retired teacher Larry Sand noted in a July opinion piece for the Orange County Register.
It certainly doesn’t represent that 35 percent in its political spending, though, even though the union insists it does:
“In the June 6 primary, CTA endorsed 35 state legislators across the state — all Democrats,” Sand wrote.
“The union is financially supporting Gavin Newsom for governor — a man who, if elected, has promised to implement a ‘cradle to career’ plan, a socialist-style arrangement that would have the government involved in parents’ lives starting when babies are in utero. CTA also plans to spend up to $10 million on five initiatives that will be on the ballot this November, including supporting one that would allow municipalities to apply stricter rent control regulations and fighting another that would strengthen Proposition 13 (a 1978 amendment limiting taxes) protections.”
So, these dues are being spent on liberal candidates across the board. And, according to the lawsuit, the union bosses want to make sure you’ll pay them for as long as you’re a teacher, even if you’re no longer receiving the protection of the union.
“The fact that the unions have no qualms about taking money from teachers who have disavowed union membership shows conclusively that they really only care about money,” Gondeiro-Watt said in the Freedom Foundation news release. “Which validates the teachers’ decision to opt out in the first place.”
Let’s hope the courts agree.
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