A California teacher has filed a lawsuit against her union that claims she was cut off from benefits and from having a vote on the contract because she did not want her dues spent on political causes she did not support.
“There’s this undercurrent of fear and intimidation,” said Rebecca Friedrichs, whose suit seeks an exemption from union financial obligations since she is receiving no benefits from the union–political or non-political. “If you’re not in step with what the union’s doing, if you stand against it, you’re not a part of the club. You’re bullied. It’s very intimidating.”
California law requires union membership of almost all teachers. According to the union, about 30 percent of dues fund political causes, such as lobbying.
Some teachers, like Friedrichs, become agency fee payers — they leave the union but are required to pay for services such as collective bargaining. They pay the full dues amount then receive a rebate for the roughly 30 percent.
But they lose most member benefits, and, as Friedrichs said, collective bargaining is still political.
“What troubles me is the union is so involved in politics that they use our money to put a lot of those government officials into their jobs. Now the union is bargaining with officials who have been put in their spot by union money, and they’re union-friendly,” she said. “You have union-friendly officials on the other side, and taxpayers aren’t represented, and they’re bargaining with taxpayer money. I think that’s political.”
Plaintiffs are hoping the U.S. Supreme Court agrees to hear the case and overturns a 1977 Supreme Court decision allowing states to make union membership and union dues compulsory for public employees, said attorney Terry Pell, president of the Center for Individual Rights, which is representing plaintiffs. The 1977 case, Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, set up the agency fee system.