Imagine being forced to financially support a political cause that you disagree with. Now imagine being forced to support that cause or risk losing your job. Millions of Americans face that exact scenario every year. They are forced to financially support labor unions they disagree with, and if they don’t, they could lose their jobs.
Since the 1970s, workers who are forced to belong to the union as a pre-condition of employment have been able to opt out of paying dues that unions spend on elections and overtly political work. But, they are still forced to pay dues to support the collective bargaining work that unions do.
That could change this year. A brave group of teachers in California is challenging this unfair arrangement. They have all opted out of the union, but they are still forced to pay dues to support collective bargaining work resulting in workplace agreements that the teachers say are also political and that they don’t agree with. These teachers don’t support the workplace rules that come from collective bargaining agreements that block merit pay for good teachers, keep bad teachers in the classroom just because they have seniority, and other rules that stop effective reforms to improve schools.
On January 11, attorneys for these teachers presented their case to the
U.S. Supreme Court in a case called Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association (CTA). Rebecca Friedrichs, a 28-year teacher, and her plaintiff colleagues contend that teachers should be able to practice their profession without losing their First Amendment rights to associate—or not—with the organizations of their choice. For Rebecca and her colleagues, this is a matter of exercising professional integrity and personal conscience.
The verdict on Friedrichs v. CTA will be game-changing no matter what the high court decides. SPN members and allies are in Rebecca’s corner, fighting with her and all teachers for the right to practice their profession without being forced to financially support private organizations working for policies they oppose.
Many teachers around the country support the teachers union and are glad to be a part of it. That’s their right. And it should be Rebecca’s right to decide for herself if she wants to be part of the union. If she doesn’t, she shouldn’t have to hand over any part of her hard-earned paycheck. Though the arguments were heard in January, the outcome will be published much later, likely at the end of June. SPN will keep you informed about the decision and its impact.
In the meantime, we would like to share a message from Rebecca, whom the network had the pleasure of meeting at the SPN 23rd Annual Meeting in Grand Rapids, Mich.
“Thank you for inviting me to your 2015 annual event—it was remarkable! As you may know, this is my 28th year of teaching. Throughout those years, I’ve battled the teachers unions on many fronts, and I always thought I was getting nowhere. Since filing our lawsuit in April 2013, I have felt much more hopeful about the future of this battle, but I still felt somewhat alone in the battle.…[But God] sent me some wonderful warriors to offer me all kinds of support, and those brave souls had just launched a group called California Policy Center in my home county.…Their kindness led me to Lynn Harsh and the State Policy Network.
Thanks to you, I made many valuable connections for our lawsuit needs and even for my future dreams to inspire more people to stand up for their beliefs and against tyranny.…Sadly, the people I’m defending are too afraid to stand with me or behind me, so at work I stand mostly alone. You have no idea how much it means to me to know that there’s an army of policy experts standing with me in this battle. Your passionate pursuit of justice gives me a ton of extra energy and encouragement in this adventure of faith.
I feel so much more protected and validated with your amazing support.
Please know that each of you will be with me (as encouragement in my heart) during the remainder of this journey. Thank you for allowing me to use you to bring about great change in our country. I admire you immensely!”