How A California Teacher Just Became The Biggest Threat To Big Labor

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The U.S. Supreme Court decided Tuesday to hear a case that could end mandatory union membership for all government workers. Rebecca Friedrichs is the teacher at the center of it all.

It all started when Friedrichs, who teaches out of Buena Park, Calif., learned the union culture benefited its members at the expense of the students. Despite her disagreement with the California Teachers Association (CTA), she was forced to continue paying into it.

“I am not anti-union at all, I came from a union family,” Friedrichs told The Daily Caller News Foundation in April. “I am against forced unions.”

Eventually this led her and nine other teachers to sue the CTA and its affiliate, the National Education Association. Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association goes beyond just public school teachers however. A verdict in favor of Friedrichs and the other teachers involved could result in all government workers gaining the right to stop paying union fees.

“I’m hoping we will be a huge step in restoring liberty,” Friedrichs noted. “I hope we’ll start a ball rolling towards more freedom.”

The lawsuit was filed in April of 2013. It argues that the California law which allows for mandatory union membership is unconstitutional because it violates their First Amendment rights. In January of 2015, the teachers petitioned the Supreme Court to hear their arguments against the law and to overturn it.

“The question of whether teachers and other government employees can be required to subsidize the speech of a union they do not support as a condition of working for their own government is now squarely before the Court,” Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, told TheDCNF in an email.

Teachers are allowed to leave their union but are still required to pay fees. If they leave they lose their liability services and the ability to talk at union meetings. Since public school teachers are government workers, a verdict in favor of Friedrichs is likely to set a precedent allowing all government workers to stop paying union dues or fees.

“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 (CIR), told TheDCNF in an email. “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.”

CIR is a non-profit public interest firm representing Friedrichs and the other teachers involved in the case.

“Rebecca Friedrichs and the other California teachers we are representing are looking forward to their long overdue day in court,” Pell added.

Supporters are optimistic the court will side with Friedrichs given recent decisions. Last year in the case Harris v. Quinn the court ruled Illinois state homecare workers could not be forced to pay union dues.

“We hope the High Court will follow through on last year’s Harris decision and ensure that no public employee will ever again be forced to pay union dues to get or keep a job,” Mix added.

CTA did not respond to a request for comment from TheDCNF.

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