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Teachers pay price for leaving union

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[August 21, 2014]  By Mary C. Tillotson |
 A California teachers who want to opt out of supporting the teachers union’s political lobbying is now without professional liability insurance or a contract vote, even though those provisions are part of collective bargaining.

“There’s this undercurrent of fear and intimidation. 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,” said Rebecca Friedrichs.

She’s a California teacher who is suing the union, hoping for an exempton from union financial obligations.

With few exceptions, California law requires union membership of 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, Friedrichs said, and collective bargaining is still political, she’s arguing.

“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.

Public employees’ First Amendment rights not to be compelled to support a particular political cause or candidate ought to include the right not to pay for collective bargaining, he said.

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“The union takes positions during collective bargaining that are inherently political and reasonable people could disagree about,” Pell said. “It presses for tenure, higher salaries. Many teachers support that, but some do not, especially in California, where those (policies) are pushing some localities into bankruptcy. Teachers could reasonably decide they didn’t want to support a union that pushed for greater salaries and tenure protections.”

“Any time a union negotiates with a political agency, that’s inherently political. They’re negotiating over how to spend public money,” he said. “When they press for more money to go to education, they’re saying fewer government resources should be going to other things, like parks, libraries, welfare. Those are political decisions.”

The union, which did not return calls for comment on the Friedrichs cas, has argued this would create a “free rider” system, allowing teachers to receive the benefits of collective bargaining without paying.

Pell said most professional associations, such as the American Bar Association, successfully represent the interests of a particular profession without compulsory membership. There’s no necessary connection between collective bargaining and compelled dues, he said.

“Through the lens of the First Amendment, (the question is) whether it’s necessary for the state to override the First Amendment rights of public employees to make decisions for themselves,” he said.

[This article courtesy of Watchdog.]

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