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."
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.
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."