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Courtesy of Greg Schneider (www.gregschneider.com)

Rebecca Friedrichs, lead plaintiff in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to hear a lawsuit against the California Teachers Association that will determine whether teachers and other public employees must pay fees to unions that represent them.

A victory for the plaintiffs in Friedrichs v. CTA would threaten the financial strength and bargaining clout of the CTA and other public employee unions by making all union dues voluntary. Ten California teachers and the conservative teachers group Christian Educators Association International filed the lawsuit.

The teachers assert that mandatory fees violate their First Amendment rights.

“This case is about the right of individuals to decide for themselves whether to join and pay dues to an organization that purports to speak on their behalf,” Terry Pell, president of the Center for Individual Rights, which brought the case on behalf of the teachers, said in a statement Tuesday. “We are seeking the end of compulsory union dues across the nation on the basis of the free speech rights guaranteed by the First Amendment.”

In a joint statement with the presidents of the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, CTA President Eric Heins said, “We are disappointed that at a time when big corporations and the wealthy few are rewriting the rules in their favor, knocking American families and our entire economy off balance, the Supreme Court has chosen to take a case that threatens the fundamental promise of America – that if you work hard and play by the rules you should be able to provide for your family and live a decent life.”

The lawsuit asks the Court to overturn its 1977 ruling in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, in which the Court said that states could require public employees who decline to join a union to pay “agency” or “fair-share” fees. Along with covering the local union’s costs of negotiating workplace conditions, pay and benefits, a portion of the agency fees goes to the CTA and the National Education Association to cover lobbying and other expenses in Sacramento and Washington, D.C.

Twenty-five states, including California, have laws establishing compulsory union fees. Laws in two dozen “right -to-work” states prohibit them. By 2013, two years after legislators rescinded Wisconsin’s mandatory fees, a third of that state’s teachers had stopped paying dues.

Because of the Abood ruling, teachers already don’t have to pay the share of dues that goes to political purposes, such as supporting candidates for school boards and the Legislature and, in California, initiatives like Proposition 30, which established temporary taxes. About 30 to 40 percent of the approximately $1,000 in dues that California teachers pay annually funds political activities. Each year, about 29,000 teachers – less than 10 percent of teachers in the state ­– sign a declaration to get a rebate for that money.

The court in Abood determined that states, as employers, have an interest in negotiating with a financially viable union serving the interests of workers. They can establish fair-share fees to prevent “free riders” – workers who get all of the benefits of representation without sharing any of the costs.

However, Rebecca Friedrichs, a 27-year elementary teacher in the Savanna School District in Anaheim, and the other plaintiffs argue that agency fees violate their free speech rights. States, they argue, shouldn’t force them to pay fees to a union whose positions on issues like tenure, class size, teacher evaluations or merit-based compensation they don’t support.

Pell said there are indistinguishable differences between what is and isn’t considered political speech under the Abood ruling. “Everything the union does is political,” he said in an interview last year.

As a fallback position, attorneys for the teachers asked the court to require that unions ask employees to affirmatively opt in every year to pay agency fees, instead of having to opt out of automatic dues collection.

The court in Abood determined that states, as employers, have an interest in negotiating with a financially viable union serving the interests of workers. They can establish fair-share fees to prevent “free riders” – workers who get all of the benefits of representation without sharing any of the costs. The CTA also argues its positions reflect the views of the majority of its members, who elect the leaders who represent them.

At least four of the nine Supreme Court justices must agree to take a case. Last year, Justice Samuel Alito appeared to invite a re-hearing of Abood in writing the majority opinion in Harris v. Quinn, a narrow decision involving Illinois health-care workers. Alito referred to the “questionable foundations” of the Abood decision. In response, attorneys for the teachers asked federal courts in California to put Friedrichs on a fast track so that the Supreme Court could take up the challenge of Abood. The courts responded by moving the case forward without holding a full trial and oral arguments on appeal.

In a brief filed last month defending the state law on compulsory fees, California Attorney General Kamala Harris cited the expedited proceeding as a reason the Supreme Court shouldn’t take up the case. She said Friedrichs makes a sweeping assertion that all bargaining is political without citing specifics or establishing a record on which to rule.

“Even if there were some reason to revisit Abood, this case would not be a good vehicle for doing so,” Harris wrote.

Three times in the past 16 years, California voters have defeated initiatives to eliminate the compulsory fees deduction or prohibit unions from collecting a portion of dues for political purposes. Worried that the conservative Supreme Court majority might overturn Abood, the CTA’s leaders have looked ahead. Last year, at its conference for local union presidents, the CTA shared a 23-page presentation on Friedrichs with the fatalistic title “Not if but when: Living in a world without Fair Share.”

However, as last week’s 6-3 Supreme Court ruling upholding a key provision of the Affordable Care Act showed, a willingness to revisit a case does not necessarily foreshadow a decision to overturn it.


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  1. Gary Ravani 1 year ago1 year ago

    The following is an excerpt from an article on the Center for Individual Rights [sic] taken from The nation magazine on Feb 18, 1999, when the cause du jure of the CIR was ending affirmative action. As noted they have a rather low regard for the individual rights of minorities and legal efforts to level the playing field. As I said previously I can only assume that the teachers associated with this lawsuit are unknowing … Read More

    The following is an excerpt from an article on the Center for Individual Rights [sic] taken from The nation magazine on Feb 18, 1999, when the cause du jure of the CIR was ending affirmative action. As noted they have a rather low regard for the individual rights of minorities and legal efforts to level the playing field. As I said previously I can only assume that the teachers associated with this lawsuit are unknowing dupes of the extreme right.

    “Given the range of CIR’s activities, however, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that civil liberties are incidental to the group’s larger purpose–protecting the interests of segregationists. In fact, CIR’s principles (articulated on its Web site) specifically include the defense of segregated groups: “CIR advocates a limited application of civil rights laws that would preserve the right of private citizens to deal or not to deal with other private citizens without government scrutiny.” In other words, the government has no right to use race in decision-making but people have every right to do just that. This the group calls “color-blindness.”

    CIR has close links to racist libertarians of the far right. The organization’s federal tax returns reveal that on three occasions in the early nineties CIR received funding from the Pioneer Fund, which supports “research asserting the genetic superiority of whites,” according to The Independent of London. Pioneer was founded in the thirties by a millionaire who advocated sending blacks back to Africa. The foundation’s charter set forth its mission as “racial betterment” and aid for people “deemed to be descended predominantly from white persons who settled in the original 13 states prior to the adoption of the Constitution.'”

    Replies

    • FloydThursby1941 1 year ago1 year ago

      Gary, why is this relevant? Isn’t this ad hominem? I’m confused.

    • Don 1 year ago1 year ago

      Gary described affirmative action opposition n 1999 as , "the cause du jure"? Oh, please. 16 years later Affirmative Action is all but dead after the latest SCOTUS ruling of 2014. Your attempt to paint opponents of quotas as racists is nothing less than cliche leftist ideology. Trying to paint CIR as a segregationist organization is par for the course for leftist propagandists who race bait for lack of moral character. I might as … Read More

      Gary described affirmative action opposition n 1999 as , “the cause du jure”? Oh, please. 16 years later Affirmative Action is all but dead after the latest SCOTUS ruling of 2014. Your attempt to paint opponents of quotas as racists is nothing less than cliche leftist ideology. Trying to paint CIR as a segregationist organization is par for the course for leftist propagandists who race bait for lack of moral character. I might as well describe today’s Democratic Party as the party of slavery. You left out the Koch brothers, Gary.

  2. Gary Ravani 1 year ago1 year ago

    I have heard from a good source that the actual law firm representing the plaintiffs in this case (Friederichs) before the Supreme Court is the same one that recently tried to have the Affordable Care Act overturned. There is every possibility they will get their legalistic posteriors handed to them...again. There are widely spread reports that Scalia, who almost "invited" Friedericks to be brought forward, is acting in a more and more erratic fashion. His … Read More

    I have heard from a good source that the actual law firm representing the plaintiffs in this case (Friederichs) before the Supreme Court is the same one that recently tried to have the Affordable Care Act overturned. There is every possibility they will get their legalistic posteriors handed to them…again.

    There are widely spread reports that Scalia, who almost “invited” Friedericks to be brought forward, is acting in a more and more erratic fashion. His long term agenda has utterly failed (outside of the “Jim Crow” style dismantling of the Voting Rights Act and the infamous Citizens United case) and there has been a literal cascade of progressive decisions in the course of a week that seems to have further unhinged him.

    The case is a long year away. Who knows what can happen in that time?

    Then there is the reality that neither Friedrichs nor Vergara are really about “freedom of speech” or “student’s rights” but, instead, are transparent attacks on teachers and their unions ability to act powerfully on behalf of public schools and the students who attend them. Like ACA, the freedom to marry the person you love, or (perhaps most importantly) set Congressional districts in a way that is not gerrymandered, there seems to be a historical current that flows towards the needs of real people and not billionaires and overt bigots. History swings in arcs and this arc “bends towards justice.”

    There will be a public campaign around Friederichs. This will not be directed at the plaintiffs, who seem (as in Vergara) to be the silly pawns of billionaires and reactionaries. The unseemly, if not down right ugly, antecedents of the puppet-masters who back Friederichs are bound to become public. And outside of the crowd that protests the removal of the Confederate Battle Flag from prominent places in the South the puppet-masters will find few allies.

    Replies

    • Don 1 year ago1 year ago

      The person who seems to be coming unhinged is you, Gary. What does the Confederate flag have to do with Friedrichs? This guilt by association tactic to paint all conservatives as wingnuts is low brow. Maybe you're just intolerant of religious folks. FYI, Anthony Kennedy was the driving force behind the Citizen's United ruling, having written the majority opinion when his more expansive approach was better received than that of Robert's by the conservative … Read More

      The person who seems to be coming unhinged is you, Gary. What does the Confederate flag have to do with Friedrichs? This guilt by association tactic to paint all conservatives as wingnuts is low brow. Maybe you’re just intolerant of religious folks.

      FYI, Anthony Kennedy was the driving force behind the Citizen’s United ruling, having written the majority opinion when his more expansive approach was better received than that of Robert’s by the conservative block. He’s more liberal on social issues, but yields deeply conservative opinions in the main.

      Still, Roberts is the likelier swing vote in this case if there is a swing vote at all. If Citizen’s United and Obergfell are any indication, it will be an uphill battle for the CTA to get a ruling to against Friedrichs to limit First Amendment rights by sanctioning Abood again .

  3. Don 1 year ago1 year ago

    Floyd, your two comments demonstrate your lack of interest in the constitutional question before SCOTUS and that you only wish to see unions take a hit whether that increases or diminishes freedom of speech. Apparently, the substantive First Amendment issues at stake mean less to you than getting even against your avowed personal enemy, United Educators of San Francisco. Revenge and envy are ugly when put on display. And trotting out … Read More

    Floyd, your two comments demonstrate your lack of interest in the constitutional question before SCOTUS and that you only wish to see unions take a hit whether that increases or diminishes freedom of speech. Apparently, the substantive First Amendment issues at stake mean less to you than getting even against your avowed personal enemy, United Educators of San Francisco. Revenge and envy are ugly when put on display. And trotting out the same old tired list of gripes is as maddening as it is irrelevant to the issues raised in this article that are before the Supreme Court. Hopefully, we can raise the level of discourse.

  4. Gary Ravani 1 year ago1 year ago

    For those who think the tidal wave of justice that seems to be sending the Confederate Flag to museums where it belongs is a good thing you may be interested to know that the Center for Individual Rights, carrying this lawsuit, has some very interesting history that you would likely find quite offensive. Look for a Nation article of a few years ago by Laura Saunders for more detail. The Christian Educators Association, also carrying … Read More

    For those who think the tidal wave of justice that seems to be sending the Confederate Flag to museums where it belongs is a good thing you may be interested to know that the Center for Individual Rights, carrying this lawsuit, has some very interesting history that you would likely find quite offensive. Look for a Nation article of a few years ago by Laura Saunders for more detail.

    The Christian Educators Association, also carrying the lawsuit, is highly invested in supporting public school teachers being able to get a “biblical perspective” into their teaching. Check their website.

    This should all work out well particularly for STEM subjects.

    Replies

    • FloydThursby1941 1 year ago1 year ago

      Sorry Gary, I don't believe based on your history you are honestly looking at the big picture. I think you're playing gotcha. I recognize it because that's what the union did to us in the election and with Vergara. Are you capable of looking at the big picture? I am 100% certain if you found something this obscure which went against your ideals, you'd stay silent. You have to be … Read More

      Sorry Gary, I don’t believe based on your history you are honestly looking at the big picture. I think you’re playing gotcha. I recognize it because that’s what the union did to us in the election and with Vergara. Are you capable of looking at the big picture? I am 100% certain if you found something this obscure which went against your ideals, you’d stay silent. You have to be intellectually consistent to be able to make these points. I’ve never seen you note anything minor but inconvenient about anything against union orthodoxy, not once. I don’t think that’s merely a coincidence. The facts you are laying out have nothing to do with the overall impact of this change.

  5. Doctor J 1 year ago1 year ago

    This case is a game changer.

    Replies

    • FloydThursby1941 1 year ago1 year ago

      I used to be against changing this, but after working hard to get a neighborhood school measure on the ballot in San Francisco, an issue which had nothing to do with the union, and the union spent lots of money spreading misinformation about the measure causing it to lose by 0.08%, I am for this change. No one group should have that much money and power over elections. It's no different from the … Read More

      I used to be against changing this, but after working hard to get a neighborhood school measure on the ballot in San Francisco, an issue which had nothing to do with the union, and the union spent lots of money spreading misinformation about the measure causing it to lose by 0.08%, I am for this change. No one group should have that much money and power over elections. It’s no different from the Koch brothers and Citizens United. The union could use their money for good, to study why some kids do better than others despite poverty and help all families follow their example, to fight for more funding for tutoring and for schools overall, to advocate for ways to get kids out of poverty, but they don’t. They narrowly spend the money to stop any sort of reform and make it more difficult for reforms to succeed. Almost every good idea out there, you have to be worried the union will stop it. I’ve seen them defend bad teachers and people taking false sick days like it were advocating for women to have the right to vote or for the end of segregation. I’ve seen them blindly blame poverty for all poor performance in school. I’ve seen them defeat compromise changes to LIFO and teacher termination. I have lost all faith in the union as a force for good and for eliminating the achievement gap. When I saw them just a few years ago fight like hell, like it was a noble cause, for Mark Berndt to get 40k before getting a 26 year prison sentence, I decided to vote against them. I could find no justification for that.

      It was like watching ‘Treasure of the Sierra Madre’, the film, for me. I always liked Humphrey Bogart. His character Fred Dobbs started out good in that movie and then started acting a bit odd, out of line, crazy. I tried to justify it and root for him, but at some point he takes the gun away from his old friend and shoots him in cold blood. At that moment I realized I could no longer root for the character and that he was bad. It was like that for me with the union. I always thought of them as a force for good despite their over-focus on poverty as the reason for academic failure in lieu of more constructive solutions. I was annoyed by the automatic naysaying of almost any good idea, but I still thought they were good and had hope. When they defended Mark Berndt, it was like when Fred Dobbs shot that man in the movie. There is no possible justification for that. They lost a lot of people there. It was a huge strategic error. Every time they defend a bad teacher, that’s 44-60 parents who will probably vote against them in the next ballot measure.

      These are the facts, and they are undisputed.

      • Don 1 year ago1 year ago

        The union has a “Duty of Fair Representation”. It was required by law to defend Berndt as long as he was a union member. It wasn’t some sort of discretionary decision to help out the bad guy. Obviously, a lot of people don’t understand the legal requirements of an exclusive bargaining unit. You are one of them. You make these allegations repeatedly, but never bother to get your facts straight.

        • FloydThursby1941 1 year ago1 year ago

          They didn't have to be so passionate about it and make him look like a victim and the people firing him out to be unfair. I don't think anyone in the world would have faulted them if they said you know what, let this one go. There are unions that kick you out if you do something wrong and require members to go to training and improve. Not all unions defend people … Read More

          They didn’t have to be so passionate about it and make him look like a victim and the people firing him out to be unfair. I don’t think anyone in the world would have faulted them if they said you know what, let this one go. There are unions that kick you out if you do something wrong and require members to go to training and improve. Not all unions defend people calling in sick who aren’t. It isn’t required. Who would have faulted them if they let Berndt get what he deserved? He molested over 100 children.

          • FloydThursby1941 1 year ago1 year ago

            This from Wikipedia. It's not absolute. I doubt they would have lost more in the lawsuit than LAUSD did for what Berndt did. The union interprets it this way because they want to defend any and all and make everyone scared to fire anyone ever. According to this they wouldn't have lost a lawsuit. Courts' view Generally the courts have taken a deferential approach to reviewing unions' decisions challenged as a … Read More

            This from Wikipedia. It’s not absolute. I doubt they would have lost more in the lawsuit than LAUSD did for what Berndt did. The union interprets it this way because they want to defend any and all and make everyone scared to fire anyone ever. According to this they wouldn’t have lost a lawsuit.

            Courts’ view

            Generally the courts have taken a deferential approach to reviewing unions’ decisions challenged as a breach of their duty of fair representation. Recognizing that the collective bargaining process typically requires compromises, which may favor some workers at the expense of others, the courts have held that a union only breaches its duty if it acts arbitrarily, in bad faith or discriminatorily. Practical considerations have also led the courts to refuse to second-guess unions’ decisions: if a court or jury could substitute its judgment as to whether a particular grievance had merit, then unions could not function, since their decisions would rarely be final in any practical sense. Accordingly, the courts have refused to overturn union decisions as arbitrary so long as they were based on a reasoned decision by the union, even if the court might believe that this decision was wrong.

            • Don 1 year ago1 year ago

              It's old news and off topic so I will end with this: LAUSD took the heat by settling preemptively with Berndt. They knew they couldn't build a case against him because they were prohibited from conducting their own internal investigation. So settling made sense given the high cost of litigating it, though it sickened people to know he got bought out and retained a lifetime pension and benefits. This is the result of the teacher … Read More

              It’s old news and off topic so I will end with this: LAUSD took the heat by settling preemptively with Berndt. They knew they couldn’t build a case against him because they were prohibited from conducting their own internal investigation. So settling made sense given the high cost of litigating it, though it sickened people to know he got bought out and retained a lifetime pension and benefits. This is the result of the teacher employment statutes. The union was not deeply involved as Berndt was gone fairly quickly once the pictures got out. If you want to find flagrant ethical problems with the union you’re barking up the wrong tree.

            • FloydThursby1941 1 year ago1 year ago

              Why were they prohibited from conducting their own internal investigation? Sounds like one of those many technicalities the union put in place to help make it hard to fire teachers, including Berndt. LAUSD was scared the union would push this point. If the union had dropped him LAUSD would have not been so agressive. This guy will be 84 once he gets out of prison but his pension will accumulate and … Read More

              Why were they prohibited from conducting their own internal investigation? Sounds like one of those many technicalities the union put in place to help make it hard to fire teachers, including Berndt. LAUSD was scared the union would push this point. If the union had dropped him LAUSD would have not been so agressive. This guy will be 84 once he gets out of prison but his pension will accumulate and he will have about a million dollars in the bank. Plus he had 40k so he has a maximum commissary for his time in prison, during which he can read all the books he never had time to read and plan his vacations for his mid to late 80s.

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