Education
Chicago Teachers Union. Photo - Facebook/Chicago Teachers Union Chicago Teachers Union. Photo - Facebook/Chicago Teachers Union  

Union spends teachers’ money on politics, says suit

Photo of Robby Soave
Robby Soave
Reporter

A group of teachers is suing to stop the California teachers union from collecting mandatory agency fees from non-members and spending the money on political activity.

The 10 teachers named in the lawsuit are not members of union. But they still pay agency fees to the California Teachers Association, which they claim uses the money to lobby for political causes, allegedly violating the teachers’ First Amendment rights.

“The state is compelling the payment of dues to support beliefs with which our clients disagree,” said Terry Pell, president of the Center for Individual Rights, a conservative legal group representing the teachers, in an interview with The Daily Caller News Foundation.

In the past, teachers unions have lobbied for tax increases in order to maintain education funding. But some teachers — including the ones filing the suit — don’t always support higher taxes.

While it is technically possible for teachers to opt out of funding union political activity, the process is complicated and intimidating, said Pell.

“Union dues are fungible,” he said. “That accounting arrangement is susceptible to abuse and difficult to implement and a constitutional burden on the individual’s rights.”

The lawsuit names CTA, the National Education Association and local unions as defendants, according to the Associated Press.

Frank Wells, a spokesperson for CTA, derided the lawsuit as baseless.

“There’s not a lot of hoops they have to jump through,” he said in a statement to Courthouse News. “The concept of agency fees is sound.”

So far, the Supreme Court has agreed. In 2012’s Knox v. Service Employees International Union, a 5-4 majority held that agency fees are permissible, so long as unions provided an opt-out method.

But according to Pell, several of the conservative justices seemed open to the idea that agency fees are unconstitutional. He is counting on swaying them — if the case makes it that far.

“The justices are open to the argument that we are making,” he said. “It is an open question for whether there are five votes for what we are saying.”

But first, the case will go to federal district court. The losing side is likely to appeal the outcome.

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