Union, California Attorney General File Briefs in Friedrichs

The California Teacher’s Association and the California Attorney General have filed briefs before the Supreme Court in response to CIR’s arguments on behalf of Rebecca Friedrichs and other public school teachers.

The Union’s brief argues that public employees, like Rebecca Friedrichs and other school teachers, can be compelled to support political activity they disagree with because their status as government employee overrides their status as citizen. The Union reasons it may compel such speech because it has a strong interest in “labor peace” and governance. The Union’s argument is simply that the government’s rights outweigh the rights of individuals.

Indeed, the Union brief speaks of the state’s “interest,” “rights,” and “prerogative” nearly forty times in the space of fifty-nine pages. In contrast, the Union only refers to individual rights, or the First Amendment rights of teachers, in passing. When it does mention individual rights, it characterizes them as a burden on government interests.

Read the Union brief here.

The state of California likewise argues that individual rights are subservient to “administrative advantages to the state.” Furthermore, California continues to insist that collective bargaining is not political. This despite the fact that CIR and amici have pointed to political movements across the country organized by parents and teachers who fundamentally disagree with the policy positions taken by unions through collective bargaining.

Read California’s brief here.

CIR will file a reply brief on behalf of Friedrichs and the other plaintiffs on December 14th.



IR is representing ten California teachers and the Christian Educators Association International in a landmark effort to re-establish the right of individual teachers and other public employees to decide for themselves whether to join and support a union. The suit claims state “agency shop” laws, which require public employees to pay union dues as a condition of employment, violate well-settled principles of freedom of speech and association. While many teachers support the union, others do not and the state cannot constitutionally compel an individual to join and financially support an organization with which he or she disagrees.

Collective Bargaining is Inherently political

Typically, California teacher union dues cost upwards of a $1,000 per year. Although California law allows teachers to opt-out of the thirty percent or so of their dues devoted to overt political lobbying, they may not opt out of the sixty to seventy percent of their dues the union determines is devoted to collective bargaining. Requiring teachers to pay these “agency fees” assumes that collective bargaining is non-political.  But bargaining with local governments is inherently political.  Whether the union is negotiating for specific class sizes or pressing a local government to spend tax dollars on teacher pensions rather than on building parks, the union’s negotiating positions embody political choices that are often controversial.

Political Opt-Out is Burdensome

To opt out of the thirty percent of their dues that even the union concedes is used for overtly political activities, teachers must must file for a refund each year according to a precise procedure that effectively discourages its use. As a result, many teachers contribute hundreds of dollars in dues each year to support political positions in a variety of areas having nothing to do with education and with which many of them disagree.

For example, the CTA spent over $211 million in political expenditures from 2000 through 2009. CTA’s largest single expenditure (over $26 million) was made to successfully oppose Proposition 38 on the November, 2000 ballot, which would have enacted a school-voucher system in California (and thereby increased the potential employment pool for teachers). CTA also spent over $50 million to oppose three ballot initiatives in 2005, including Proposition 74, which sought to make changes in the probationary period for California school teachers; Proposition 75, which sought to prohibit the use of public employee agency fees for political contributions without individual employees’ prior consent; and Proposition 76, concerning state spending and minimum school-funding requirements.

Case Speeds to Supreme Court

On June 30th, the Supreme Court granted CIR’s petition asking it to review the case.  To date, over 20 amicus briefs have been filed in support of CIR’s efforts at the Supreme Court. The case likely will be heard in the fall of 2015, with a decision expected by June, 2016.

The speed with which the case moved through the lower courts reflected a deliberate litigation strategy.  From the beginning, CIR argued that the lower courts do not have the authority to overturn existing Supreme Court precedent. As a result, we asked the trial court and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to decide against our clients on the basis of the pleadings (without trial or oral argument) so as to send the case on to the Supreme Court as quickly as possible.  The Supreme Court is the only forum that can vindicate the First Amendment rights of our clients and other teachers.


Case Status: Petition for writ of certiorari granted, case pending before Supreme Court

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