July 12 2013
Vicki E. Alger
Just last week the country’s largest teachers union, the National Education Association, named California Gov. Jerry Brown its Greatest Governor. We’ll recall that way back during the Brown.1 era he was the driving force behind California’s teacher collective bargaining law. Today that law is being challenged and has a good shot of prevailing.
Christian Educators Association International is taking on California’s largest teachers union and NEA affiliate the California Teachers Association (CTA), which claims 325,000 members. At issue is requiring non-CTA teachers to pay CTA dues. As Larry Sand writes in City Journal:
The rationale for collective-bargaining fees is that even nonmembers benefit from collective bargaining; there should be no ‘free riders.’ But the line between what counts as a ‘chargeable’ fee and what constitutes outright political activity has become blurrier over the years. As the plaintiffs’ lawyers argue, unions use their power ‘to extract compulsory fees as a convenient method of forcing teachers to pay for activities that have little to do with collective bargaining.’ They point to The California Educator, CTA’s highly political magazine, which the union claims as a chargeable collective-bargaining expense. They also note how union leaders deemed a recent Gay-Lesbian-Bisexual-Transgender (GLBT) conference to be ‘predominantly chargeable.’ The plaintiffs also maintain that the NEA, which receives a portion of fees from every CTA member, classifies expenditures that have little to do with collective bargaining—such as expensive staff junkets—as chargeable.
Thus, the teacher-plaintiffs want the court to ‘declare that California’s practice of forcing non-union members to contribute funds to unions, including funds to support their collective-bargaining activities, violates the First Amendment, and enjoin Defendants [the union] from enforcing this unconstitutional arrangement.’
Precedent appears to be on the CEAI’s side—especially in light of the Supreme Court's ruling in Knox v. Service Employees International Union, Local 1000 that “individuals should not be compelled to subsidize private groups or private speech.”