California Teachers Sue Over Compulsory Union Fees

A group of 10 California public school teachers who resigned their union membership sued to challenge a state law that forces them to pay union fees.

The teachers and the Christian Educators Association International, a nonprofit religious organization, filed a complaint today in federal court in Santa Ana, California. They seek a ruling that California’s “agency shop” law requiring them to pay union fees violates their constitutional rights.

“Forcing educators to financially support causes that run contrary to their political and policy beliefs violates their First Amendment rights to free expression and association and cannot withstand First Amendment scrutiny,” Michael Carvin, a lawyer for the teachers, said in an e-mailed statement.

The teachers’ complaint names the California Teachers Association and the National Education Association as defendants, as well as the local teachers’ unions in their public school districts.

Public school teachers in California can create an “agency shop” arrangement whereby all teachers in a district are represented by one union. Nonunion teachers must pay fees for that union’s collective-bargaining work. If they don’t want to pay additional fees for the union’s political activities, they have to opt out every year, according to the complaint.

Union Fees

The annual union fees for nonunion teachers are more than $1,000, which includes as much as $400 in fees for political union activities they can choose to opt out of, according to the complaint.

The teachers allege that many of the unions’ collective-bargaining activities, for which they have to pay, are contrary to their personal interests and political beliefs.

“In coordination with their express political advocacy, California’s teachers’ unions routinely take positions in the collective-bargaining process that have profound political and budgeting consequences,” the teachers said in the complaint.

Frank Wells, a spokesman for the California Teachers Associations, said in a telephone interview that the union hadn’t seen the complaint and couldn’t comment on specific allegations. The claim over compulsory union fees has been “rehashed” for years and is without merit, Wells said.

Representatives of the National Education Association in Washington didn’t immediately return calls for comment on the complaint.

The case is Friedrich v. California Teachers Association, 13-00676, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Santa Ana).

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