California teachers are rising up against union coercion in a series of legal battles, and they’re being joined by students and other public employees. There are now three court cases in the Golden State challenging compulsory union dues, fast-tracked teacher tenure, and the opt-out procedure for members’ political contributions to unions.
In December, National Review Online reported on Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, a case arguing that union activities are inherently political, and therefore charging union members compulsory dues is a violation of members’ free speech rights. Currently teachers can opt out of “political” dues — the money from which is used toward expressly political purposes. But public school teachers, who are forced to join the union as a prerequisite for employment, cannot opt out of “nonpolitical” dues — the money from which has been used to lobby for teacher tenure and against school vouchers.
Finally, a group of state workers are fighting the opt-out procedure for political dues in Hamidi et al. v. SEIU. Under current laws, union members are allowed to opt out of a portion of their dues designated for “political” purposes. However, the opt-out procedure is extremely opaque and difficult, and members who opt out lose many of their benefits and rights in the union.
The plaintiffs in Hamidi filed a lawsuit against the SEIU on February 1, and the case is currently in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California. Vergara v. California went to trial in a Los Angeles County Superior Court in late January. Friedrichs v. C.T.A. is guaranteed a hearing in the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, though the date is pending until the Supreme Court issues a decision on Harris v. Quinn, wherein a woman serving as a care-provider for her son is challenging an Illinois law forcing her to become part of a public-employees’ union.
— Alec Torres is a William F. Buckley Fellow at the National Review Institute.