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article imageCalifornia teachers suing to end mandatory union dues

By Kelly Fetty     Jul 2, 2013 in Politics
Los Angeles - Ten teachers and the Christian Educators Association International have filed a lawsuit in California to stop the practice of teacher's unions collecting dues from non-members.
Filed on April 30, 2013 in United States District Court for the Central District of California by the Center for Individual Rights, the lawsuit names the California Teachers Association (CTA), the National Education Association (NEA), ten local affiliated unions and local school officials as defendants.
At the heart of the lawsuit is the concept of the "agency shop." The agency shop is a contractual agreement between an employer and a union in which the employer is free to hire both union and non-union workers. No employee will be forced to join the union, but the union may collect a payment from non-union employees to help finance the cost of collective bargaining. This payment is called the "agency fee."
In 1988 the Supreme Court placed limits on the agency fee, ruling in Communications Workers of America v. Beck that non-union workers could not be forced to contribute to political causes. They must be permitted to "opt out" of political activity.
The lawsuit filed by the Center for Individual rights, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, challenges the constitutionality of California's agency shop law. It contends that the agency fee forces non-union teachers to subsidize "expenditures and collective-bargaining activities are contrary to Plaintiffs’ personal interests and political beliefs."
In compliance with the 1988 Beck decision, California teachers may officially "opt out" of paying fees to support the Union's political activities. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit claim the "opt out" process is difficult and intimidating.
In an interview with Courthouse News Service in May, California Teachers Association spokesman Frank Wells called the lawsuit "another baseless attack on the concept of agency fees."
He defended the opt-out process, saying that teachers were mailed a form each year and simply asked to return it.
"There's not a lot of hoops that they have to jump through," he said.
The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld mandatory union fees in the past, but supporters of the new lawsuit point to language in last year's Knox v. SEIU calling fees "a form of compelled speech... that imposes a significant impingement on First Amendment rights."
More about Teachers union, Lawsuit, California, Agency Shop, Education
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