Why won’t California unions let teachers go?

If I went to the school lounge and stole money from a teachers purse, it would be a crime.  If a school board, at the extorted demand of a union stole from a teachers paycheck, it is called union dues.  The only difference is that the school was acting for government in the theft—and while it is illegal, no cop is going to arrest the finance office personnel or Superintendent for the crime.  That is the problem—theft needs to be stopped.

“WhenWhat could be worse than stealing from a teacher?  Why aren’t parents and students on the picket lines protesting this and demanding arrests? Fremont, Calif.-based special needs instructor Bethany Mendez looks at her paycheck, she is regularly reminded of how her employer violates her First Amendment rights daily.

Even though Mendez has demanded in writing to leave the California Teacher’s Association (the sole union designated by California to represent public school teachers), the union continues to deduct over $1,500 in dues annually. In high-priced Northern California, that’s enough to pay a medical bill or put new tires on the family vehicle. And Mendez is not the only one. Thousands of teachers just like Bethany across California are also seeing money disappear from their checks without their authorization and over their express written objections.”

If your instincts tell you this can’t be legal, you’re right.

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Why won’t California unions let teachers go?

by Harmeet K. Dhillon, Washington Examiner,  3/18/19

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If union membership is so valuable, what do unions have to fear?

When Fremont, Calif.-based special needs instructor Bethany Mendez looks at her paycheck, she is regularly reminded of how her employer violates her First Amendment rights daily.

Even though Mendez has demanded in writing to leave the California Teacher’s Association (the sole union designated by California to represent public school teachers), the union continues to deduct over $1,500 in dues annually. In high-priced Northern California, that’s enough to pay a medical bill or put new tires on the family vehicle. And Mendez is not the only one. Thousands of teachers just like Bethany across California are also seeing money disappear from their checks without their authorization and over their express written objections.

If your instincts tell you this can’t be legal, you’re right.

Last June, the Supreme Court ruled in Janus v. AFSCME that mandatory public sector union fees are unconstitutional and violate federal free speech rights. Mark Janus, a child support specialist at the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, had sued AFSCME for deducting so-called “agency fees” from his paycheck over his objection and even though he had declined formal union membership.

The high court agreed with Janus’ challenge to compelled speech in the workplace through forced union membership, holding that “[n]either an agency fee nor any other payment to the union may be deducted from a nonmember’s wages, nor may any other attempt be made to collect such a payment, unless the employee affirmatively consents to pay.”

The ruling did not create a new right. It simply recognized a right that has always existed, yet has been violated by forced union membership and dues payments.

Public sector unions anticipated the Janus ruling for years. In the weeks leading up to the landmark decision, Bethany Mendez’s union approached teachers and pressured them into signing a “commitment card” intended to lock them into paying union dues for a year, leading them to believe that they had no choice. Mendez was not informed of the imminent Janus decision, or her First Amendment rights. As a special needs teacher, Mendez focuses on helping her kids, not on keeping up with developing high court jurisprudence.

It was only after Janus was decided that Mendez learned, from her husband, that she had a right to not participate in the union.

In October 2018, Mendez sent a letter to her union attempting to exercise her right to opt out. She wrote that she had resigned her membership and would like dues-collecting to cease. The union responded by saying she could only do so during a brief three-day window “not less than thirty (30) days and not more than sixty (60) days before the annual anniversary date” of her commitment. In effect, the union told Mendez they would continue to confiscate a portion of her paycheck every pay period, without her consent.

The Janus decision made clear that such conduct is unconstitutional. And if teachers were not informed of their First Amendment rights when pressured to sign “commitment cards,” such cards should not be considered valid membership agreements.

Bethany’s story is the reason why I, with the Freedom Foundation, am representing Bethany Mendez and four other public school educators who have faced similar union conduct in their efforts to stop this. On Monday, we filed a federal class action lawsuit intended to end the forced collection of union dues without informed consent, consistent with the Janus ruling. Our goal is simple: Give teachers across California access to their constitutionally protected opportunity to make a choice about whether a union represents them. Our lawsuit seeks to vindicate worker rights and choices over the brute force of an oppressive regime that seeks to substitute its judgment for theirs.

Since the Janus ruling, tens of thousands of workers of various professions across the country have exercised their right to leave their union, with the Freedom Foundation’s opt-out campaign leading the charge. In Oregon alone, the Freedom Foundation has helped 30 percent of Oregon School Employees Association members to voluntarily leave their union.

Teachers in California have a constitutionally protected right to choose who represents them. Unions know their stranglehold on teachers is slipping, but they should work amicably with those teachers to create a better relationship and better prove their value, instead of trying to trap them with tricky commitment cards and false statements about their lack of choice. Now that dues aren’t compulsory, union leaders will have to learn to work for teachers instead of manipulating them.

If union membership is so valuable, what do unions have to fear?

Harmeet K. Dhillon (@Pnjaban) is the Republican National committeewoman from California and vice president of communications for the Republican National Lawyers Association. She is a partner at the Dhillon Law Group.

About Stephen Frank

Stephen Frank is the publisher and editor of California Political News and Views. He speaks all over California and appears as a guest on several radio shows each week. He has also served as a guest host on radio talk shows. He is a fulltime political consultant.