The largest teachers union in California is preparing for life without forced union membership, as a lawsuit challenging coercive dues makes its way through the legal system.
The California Teachers Association circulated a presentation titled, “Not if, but when: Living in a world without Fair Share,” to union leaders and members in July. The report, which was obtained by a watchdog blogger at the Education Intelligence Agency, predicts that the end is near for automatic union membership in public schools.
The slideshow warns of dire consequences if it loses the ability to collect dues payments from every public school teacher, which could lead to “membership loss … reduced staffing, pressure on CTA pension and benefits system [and] potential financial crisis in locals not positioned to survive loss of revenue.”
The union has amassed 325,000 teachers through the closed shop system established in the aftermath of the 1977 Supreme Court decision Abood v. Detroit Board of Education. Teachers in many school districts are required to join the CTA as a condition of employment. About 10 percent of CTA’s active members pay agency fees—the union calls them “fair share fees”—that apply only to collective bargaining costs, rather than the union’s political activity.
Ten teachers led by longtime elementary school teacher Rebecca Friedrichs are challenging the arrangement as a violation of the First Amendment right to freedom of association. Friedrichs and her attorneys at the Center for Individual Rights argue that because the union negotiates for taxpayer dollars, it is an inherently political organization, so there is little difference between agency fees and full dues.
Friedrichs told the Washington Free Beacon that her lawsuit will give teachers a choice.
“There is an undercurrent of fear and most people are too afraid to opt out. Most teachers want to go to class and do their job. They’re totally apolitical,” Friedrichs said.
The CTA fears that Friedrichs may have a case, especially in the wake of the Supreme Court’s June ruling in Harris v. Quinn. That case declared unconstitutional an Illinois “fair share” arrangement that forced home healthcare workers to pay union dues. The decision, according to the CTA document, could prove a “Death knell for fair share.”
“The court did not rule public sector Fair Share fees unconstitutional,” it says. “But, the conservative majority did express hostility to, and skepticism about the constitutionality of, public sector Fair Share fees, and all but invited further legal challenges [sic throughout].”