The ten teacher-plaintiffs in Friedrichs v. CTA have drawn a broad and bipartisan base of support for their cause to defend the free speech rights of teachers.
The teachers themselves are all longtime veterans of the California public school system. Each of them, after many years of teaching, being active union members, and even working as union representatives, separately became convinced their unions were doing more harm than good in their local schools. One by one, they withdrew their union membership. But under California law, they were compelled to continue paying dues to the organization they had come to disagree with.
Here are a few of their stories.
Rebecca Friedrichs has been a public school teacher in California for twenty-eight years. She currently teaches elementary school in the Savanna School District. While working as a union representative, Rebecca discovered that the unions were unwilling to consider opposing points of view. Rebecca is the lead plaintiff in Friedrichs v. CTA. You can read her in her own words here.
Jose Manso began his teaching career in 1979. After taking a break to pursue another career, he returned to teaching at the Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District in 2002. Jose resigned his union membership in 2010, after witnessing competent teacher fired and class sizes increasing under pressure caused by collective bargaining.
Harlan Elrich has been a school teacher for 30 years, with most of that time spent in California public schools. Both his parents were educators, but Harlan never considered teaching until he found great joy in tutoring part-time as a college student. Harlan was a member of his union for many years, but during an election year he filled out a union survey and discovered he disagreed with his union on nearly every topic.
Irene Zavala has been a public school teacher in California for 13 years. She currently teaches in San Luis Obispo County, where she began working in 2012. Irene resigned her union membership in 2001.
As the ten-teacher plaintiffs in Friedrichs gradually made their way to the Supreme Court, they found aid and encouragement from a broad and bipartisan coalition of parents, elected officials, student’s rights advocates, and education reformers. Not all agree with everything Rebecca has to say, but they can agree that protecting free speech will help foster debate about our education system. Twenty-five amicus briefs were filed before the Supreme Court in support of Friedrichs.
Here are a few of those who signed onto the case.
While serving as the California Senate Majoity Leader, Gloria Romero helped enact the Parent Empowerment Act of 2010. The law was designed to give parents, who have no say in the collective bargaining process, the power to have a say in the way schools are run. After leaving the senate, she founded the California Center for Parent Empowerment to help give parents a voice to stand up to union policies in schools.
Gwen Samuel is the parent of two children in Connecticut Public Schools. After concern about the way their schools were run, she founded the CT Parent’s union and succesfully lobbied for a “parent trigger law” to take power away from unions and give it to parents.
New Mexico Governor Susanna Martinez filed an amicus brief in support of Friedrichs after an article in the Yale Law Journal detailed how collective bargaining has a disproportionate impact on New Mexico’s low income schools. Martinez brief recognizes that protecting free speech has positive implications by opening up debate on such important issue.
Daniel DiSalvo is an associate professor of political science at The City College of New York-CUNY and a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. An objecting public-sector union member himself, DiSalvo has written extensively on how unions use the collective bargaining process to exert political power.
As news of Rebecca’s case spread, many other organizations and activists flocked to her cause.
Here are a few of those who have spoken out with Rebecca in support of teacher’s rights.
Star Parker is the founder and president of the Center for Urban Renewal and Education (CURE), a public policy think tank that promotes market-based solutions to fight poverty. Part of CURE’s mission is to help alleviate poverty through education reform.
Gerard Robinson is the former commissioner of education for the State of Florida and secretary of education for the Commonwealth of Virginia. He currently serves as chairman of of the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) where he works to ensure low income and working class children can attend good schools.
Not all of those behind the Friedrichs case agree on education policy, or even teachers unions for that matter. But all of them do agree that people suffer when the law favors one side in a public debate and that the unions have abused their favored status in the law to the detriment of students and parents. Together, they all agree that free speech is a good place to start when it comes to our nation’s schools.