Case Status: Dismissed. Dismissal affirmed by an equally divided Supreme Court.

Friedrichs v. CTA: Why Teachers?

Plaintiffs Jelena Figuerora, Karen Cuen, Rebecca Friedrichs
Plaintiffs Jelena Figuerora, Karen Cuen, Rebecca Friedrichs

CIR is representing ten long-time California teachers who fundamentally disagree with positions taken by the California Teachers Association and would not join or support the union if they were not required to do as a condition of employment. In addition, CIR is representing the Christian Educators Association International, a non-profit religious group that specifically serves Christians working in public schools. CEAI and its members object on policy grounds to positions taken by the union in collective bargaining and outside of that process.

Lead plaintiff Rebecca Friedrichs has taught kindergarten through fourth grade for twenty-six years and believes the CTA has become increasingly out of touch with what is happening in the classroom and society. She says, “the union has become what it used to fight — a powerful, entrenched organization more focused on self-preservation than educating children and protecting teachers.”

Friedrichs isn’t the only teacher unhappy with the CTA.  The CTA has used millions of dollars in compulsory dues to become one of the most powerful political organizations in the state of California. Increasingly, the CTA has promoted issues with which many teachers fundamentally disagree, a fact that highlights the compelled speech inherent in mandatory union membership of any kind. For example:

  • The CTA has been relentless in pushing for higher salaries during a time of economic contraction in California. Teacher-members are forced to subsidize a push for higher teacher salaries during a time when many of the families of their students are experiencing unemployment.
  • The CTA takes the inherently political view that more of scarce taxpayer resources should be devoted to education rather than other needed government services, such as parks or public safety.
  • The CTA bargains for stronger tenure protection, a position which many teachers, especially younger teachers, disagree.
  • The CTA has negotiated to make school choice programs such as vouchers more difficult to implement, a position with which many teachers disagree.

Union supporters often say that members can opt out the union’s political activities. However, as the above examples illustrate, the union’s collective bargaining activities are themselves political. No teacher should be forced to support collective bargaining activities that further an explicitly political agenda of bigger government and higher taxes.

Of course, the free speech principles for which we are fighting apply to all public employee unions, not just teacher’s unions. If we win, the Supreme Court’s ruling will open up all public unions in all states to individual choice.

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