Teachers union has given more than $13 million to extend income taxes on wealthy Californians

As reported by the Los Angeles Times:

California’s largest teachers union has given more than $13 million to the effort to extend income tax hikes on California’s highest earners, according to newly released state campaign finance reports.

The report shows the California Teachers Assn. gave $3 million between April and June this year, in addition to the $10 million the union donated last month.

Before the $10-million contribution, supporters of the Proposition 55 campaign reported having $14 million in the bank. Also supporting the measure are the California Hospital Assn., Service Employees International Union and the California Medical Assn. …

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Why Teachers Union is Desperate to Pass Prop. 55

K-12-spending-1California voters face a daunting challenge in November in that they’ll be asked to become familiar with a stunning 17 ballot measures. Some consultants fear that this will overwhelm many voters, who will choose either to vote no on everything or not vote on many initiatives.

But when it comes to Proposition 55, ignorance of its contents is not likely to be a problem for voters. The California Teachers Association and its allies are likely to spend $100 million or more on saturation TV and social media ads depicting the measure as crucial to the future of California public education.

Prop. 55 would extend for 12 years the temporary tax hikes on single people earning more than $263,000 and couples earning more than $526,000 that voters approved in 2012 (then at slightly lower income thresholds) as part of Proposition 30. Instead of sunsetting at the end of 2018, the income tax increase would continue through 2030. The $7 billion or more this is expected to generate annually would be earmarked for education. The temporary sales tax hike that voters also approved in 2012 will lapse at the end of this year.

Revenue recession took toll on teachers

prop 55 websiteThis month, the CTA wrote a $10 million check to the Yes on 55 campaign, which now has a $28 million warchest. The CTA and the smaller but still powerful California Federation of Teachers are likely to write several more checks that size to try to avoid the headaches that public school teachers faced from 2008 to 2012 during California’s long revenue recession.

While the “step” increases in pay that teachers typically receive in 15 of their first 20 years on the job were largely protected, strapped school districts didn’t grant additional across-the-board pay hikes that many provided during recent tech bubbles that pumped up capital gains revenue for the state. They also pushed for teachers to pay more toward their benefits and in some cases accept layoffs that extended beyond the newly hired to those with several years of experience.

As the Legislative Analyst’s Office graphic above shows, education spending has strongly rebounded since 2012, helped by a new boom in Silicon Valley and Proposition 30’s adoption that year. But the CTA and the CFT share Gov. Jerry Brown’sskepticism that the current good times can last. After first insisting that the temporary tax hikes must be allowed to expire because that’s what voters were promised, Brown has been far less vocal on the topic in the wake of new forecasts from his Department of Finance that state deficits are likely in coming years without retention of the income-tax hike.

Since state coffers are the main source of K-12 funding, Prop. 55’s approval is crucial to maintaining teachers’ pay and benefits. In most school districts, compensation eats up more than 80 percent of general fund budgets.

But Prop. 55’s route to passage may be rougher than Prop. 30’s in 2012. The Sacramento Bee editorial page has already saidthat support for extending the tax hikes should be explicitly linked to reforms in teacher tenure and to teacher unions’ support for state-subsidized childcare for poor families.

Some state lawmakers may also try to leverage their support for Prop. 55. Led by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, they are unhappy with how 2013’s Local Control Funding Formula has been implemented. The measure was supposed to pump billions of dollars in extra funding to districts with large numbers of English-language learners and foster children so they could provide help specifically for such students.

But three years in, education reform groups say that’s not happening, citing the absence of evidence of additional help for either category of student. Last year, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said the local control dollars could be used broadly for general pay raises, overruling a lower-ranking official.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Teachers Union Hits Taxpayers with ‘Money Club’ Again

government-voteThe California Teachers Association has just dropped $10 million into its campaign to extend the “temporary” income tax hike voters approved when they passed Proposition 30 in 2012. Proposition 55, which will appear on this November’s ballot, would extend the highest income tax rates in all 50 states for another dozen years.

Four years ago, the muscular union, called by many in Sacramento the “Fourth Branch of Government,” spent over $11 million to convince voters to increase sales and income taxes. The campaign, paid for by government employee unions and led by Gov. Jerry Brown, repeatedly promised voters the higher taxes would last only a few years and then go away.

These ultra-high tax rates are scheduled to end in 2018 and union leaders are panicking. If the tax increase ends, there may be less money to fund increases in member pay and benefits.

Spending big money on politics is not unusual for the deep pocketed CTA which receives its funding from mandatory dues. Those dues, withheld from members’ paychecks whether they like it or not, can total more than $1000 a year for a single teacher. Recall that CTA laid out $58 million in opposing several worthy reform measures in a 2005 special election including one reform that would have capped state spending. Union leaders like a guaranteed cash flow so it should come as no surprise if they put out an additional $10 million, or more, to support the Proposition 55 income tax extension. For backers of Proposition 55, spending millions in return for billions of tax dollars is considered a bargain.

The campaign will, no doubt, target low information voters with messages about how, “it’s for the children.” It is standard operational procedure for tax promoters to use children as human shields when advancing a tax increase tied to education. Not to be mentioned is that the union’s interest is solely in increasing pay and benefits, including generous pensions, for members who are already paid more than $20,000 above the national average. And don’t forget that a national education union leader once famously said “when school children start paying union dues, that’s when I’ll start representing the interests of children.”

Some will argue that ultra-high taxes should be maintained because public employees deserve to be well paid. They are. According the Department of Labor, California is the state with the best paid state and local government employees.

Our state is running a multi-billion-dollar surplus, yet Proposition 55 backers want to continue the ultra-high taxes that are already pushing businesses, and the jobs they provide, to relocate out of state. And it’s not just businesses. The list of high wealth individuals including professional athletes and entertainers who have bailed out of California is a mile long.

But the deleterious impact of high taxes is wholly lost on the union bosses. Their attention is, no doubt, on the latest news from the California State Teachers’ Retirement System. The second-largest U.S. public pension fund earned a paltry 1.4 percent return on investments in the fiscal year just ended, missing its target of 7.5 percent for the second straight year.  This raises questions about the fund’s management and whether or not it will be able to meet its obligation to 896,000 current and retired teachers.

Of course, taxpayers remain the guarantor of all public employee pensions so, in all fairness, the Proposition 55 income tax extension could come to be called the “pension tax.” And the teachers union is prepared to use its massive “money club” on voters to make sure Proposition 55 passes and the taxpayers’ dollars are there.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.

California bill tackles teacher tenure, firing, layoff rules

As reported by the Sacramento Bee:

A California lawmaker is introducing legislation to answer a court ruling that could upend California’s teacher employment rules.

Currently on appeal, a 2014 decision in the Vergara v California lawsuit ruled unconstitutional laws that dictate how long it takes teachers to earn tenure, how underperforming teachers can be fired and how teachers are laid off during budget pinches. Judge Rolf Treu agreed with plaintiffs that the laws hurt disadvantaged students by keeping inept teachers in classrooms.

The group pursuing the lawsuit argues they went to the courts because a Legislature cozy with teachers unions will not act. Since Treu’s ruling, Republicans in the Democrat-dominated Legislature have unsuccessfully pushed bills to change teacher employment rules. They failed, opposed by the California Teachers Association and other unions.

But Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, believes her new bill will …

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The Hypocrisy of Public Sector Unions

During the industrial age, labor unions played a vital role in protecting the rights of workers. Skeptics may argue that enlightened management played an equally if not greater role, such as when Henry Ford famously raised the wages of his workers so they could afford to buy the cars they made, but few would argue that labor unions were of no benefit. Today, in the private sector, the labor movement still has a vital role to play. There may be vigorous debate regarding how private sector unions should be regulated and what restrictions should be placed on their activity, but again, few people would argue they should not exist.

Unions pension public sectorPublic sector unions are a completely different story.

The differences between public and private sector unions are well documented. They operate in monopolistic environments, in organizations that are funded through compulsory taxes. They elect their bosses. They operate the machinery of government and can use that power to intimidate their political opponents.

Despite these fundamental differences in how they operate, public unions benefit from the still common perception that they are indistinguishable from private unions, that they make common cause with all workers, that they are looking out for us. This is hypocrisy on an epic scale.

Hypocrites regarding the welfare of our children

The most obvious example of public sector union hypocrisy is in education, where the teachers unions almost invariably put the interests of the union ahead of the interests of teachers, and put the interests of students last. This was brought to light during the Vergara case, which the California Teachers Association claimed was a “meritless lawsuit.” What did the plaintiffs ask for? They wanted to (1) modify hiring policies so excellence rather than seniority would be the criteria for dismissal during layoffs, (2) they wanted to extend the period before granting tenure which in its current form permits less than two years of actual classroom observation, and (3) they wanted to make it harder to dismiss teachers who were incompetents or criminals.

When the Vergara case was argued in court, as can be seen in this mesmerizing video of the attorney for the plaintiffs’ closing arguments, the expert testimony he referred to again and again was from the witnesses called by the defense! When the plaintiffs can rely on the testimony of defense witnesses, the defendants have no case. But in their appeal, the defense attorneys are fighting on. Using your money and mine.

The teachers unions oppose reforms like Vergara, they oppose free speech lawsuits like Friedrichs vs. the CTA, they oppose charter schools, they fight any attempts to invoke the Parent Trigger Law, and they are continually agitating for more taxes “for the children,” when in reality virtually all new tax revenue for education is poured into the insatiable maw of Wall Street to shore up public sector pension funds. No wonder education reform, which inevitably requires fighting the teachers unions, has become an utterly nonpartisan issue.

Hypocrites regarding the management of our economy

Less obvious but more profound are the many examples of public union hypocrisy on the issue of pensions. To wit:

(1)  Public pension systems don’t have to comply with ERISA, which means they are able to use much higher rate-of-return assumptions. Private sector pensions are required to make conservative investments and offer modest but financially sustainable pensions. Public pensions operate under a double standard. They make aggressive investment assumptions in order to reduce required contributions by their members, then hit up taxpayers to cover the difference.

(2)  One of the reasons you haven’t seen the much ballyhooed extension of pension opportunities to all workers in California is because the chances they’ll offer a plan where the fund promises a return of 7.0 percent per year are ZERO. Once they’re forced to disclose the actual rate-of-return assumptions they’re prepared to offer, and why, the naked hypocrisy of the public sector pension plans using higher rate-of-return assumptions will be revealed in terms everyone can understand.

(3)  When the internet bubble was still inflating back in the late 1990s, and stock values were soaring, public sector unions didn’t just agitate for, and receive, enhancements to pension benefit formulas. They received benefit enhancements that were applied retroactively. Public pensions are calculated by multiplying the number of years someone worked by a “multiplier,” and that product is then multiplied by their final salary (or average of the last few years salary) to calculate their pension. Retroactive enhancements meant that this multiplier, which was increased by 50 percent in most cases, was applied to past years worked, increasing pensions for imminent retirees by 50 percent. Now, with pension funds struggling financially, reformers want to decrease the multiplier, but not retroactively, which would be fair per the example set by the unions, but only for years still to be worked – only prospectively. And even that is off the table according to the unions and their attorneys. This is obscenely hypocritical.

(4)  Take a look at this CTA webpage that supports the “Occupy Wall Street” movement. What the CTA conveniently ignores is that the pension systems they defend are themselves the biggest players on Wall Street. In an era of negative interest rates and global deleveraging, public employee pension funds rampage across the globe, investing over $4.0 trillion in assets with the expectation of earning 7.0% per year. To do this they condone what Elias Isquith, writing for Salon, describes as “shameless financial strip-mining.” These funds benefit from corporate stock buy-backs, which are inevitably paid for by workers. They invest with hedge funds and private equity funds, they speculate in real estate – more generally, pension systems with unrealistic rate-of-return expectations require asset bubbles to continue to expand even though that is killing the middle class in the United States. This gives them common cause with the global financial elites who they claim they are protecting us from.

(5)  In America today most workers are required to pay into Social Security, a system that is progressive whereby high income people get less back as a percentage of what they put in, a system that is adjustable whereby benefits can be reduced to ensure solvency, a system that never speculates on the global investment market. You may hate it or love it, but as long as private citizens are required to participate in Social Security, public servants should also be required to participate. That they have negotiated for themselves a far more generous level of retirement security is hypocritical.

The hypocrisy of public sector unions isn’t just deplorable, it’s dangerous. Public unions have used the unfair advantages that accrue when they operate in the public sector to acquire power that is almost impossible to counter. Large corporations and wealthy individuals are the natural allies of public sector unions, especially at the state and local level, where these unions will rubber-stamp any legislation these elite special interests ask for, in return for support for their wage and benefit demands. Public unions both impel and enable corporatism and financialization. They are inherently authoritarian. They are inherently inclined to support bigger government, no matter what the cost of benefit may be, because that increases their membership and their power. They are a threat to our democratic institutions, our economic health, and our freedom.

And they are monstrous hypocrites.

Ed Ring is the president of the California Policy Center.

Ending eternal life of CA unions

UnionsRepublican California State Assemblywoman Shannon Grove, representing the 34th district (mostly Kern County), has come up a couple of interesting bills. (H/T Steve Frank.) Assembly Bill 2753 would “require California’s public employee unions to post an itemized version of its budget online, making it accessible for its members.” A second bill, AB2754, would “require public unions to hold an election every two years to determine if the current labor union should continue to represent its members. The election would also allow workers to select another public employee union to take its place.”

While both bills are laudable, I do see problems with AB2753. There are too many money laundering tricks that unions can use for the bill to be truly effective. But AB2754 is a doozy. It would make unions much more accountable to their members because they wouldn’t have an eternal mandate as they do now. The unions representing teachers and other public employees in California rose to power in the 1970s, and have never been recertified. How many current workers are still employed from that time? Few, if any.

Pennsylvania is also dealing with the issue. As Watchdog.org’s Evan Grossman writes, “Less than 1 percent of Pennsylvania public school teachers have formally approved of the unions representing them, and teachers unions from Erie to Philadelphia have not been elected by their members for more than four decades.” A policy brief from the Commonwealth Foundation, a free-market think tank in the Keystone State, tackles the subject. “In presidential and congressional races, Americans are accustomed to selecting leaders every two to four years. For labor organizations, which affect every aspect of government employees’ working lives, regular elections should also be mandatory.” In fact, The Washington Free Beacon’s Bill McMorris writes, “there is a bill before the (Pennsylvania) state senate that would allow for regular recertification elections ‘no less than every four years’ or when collective bargaining agreements expire.”

Now it is true that a union can be decertified by its members, but it is an onerous process that is doomed to fail, especially in big cities where the unions are powerful. Patrick Semmens, a spokesman for the National Right to Work Foundation, explains that regular recertification “would also remove obstacles that workers face when they try to decertify a union. The process can be derailed through stalling tactics and other procedural hurdles that ordinary workers face.” Semmens adds, “Regular recertification elections would be a positive step towards checking union forced dues powers.”

What happens when unions have to regularly recertify? In Wisconsin, Scott Walker’s Act 10 made unions go through the process on a yearly basis. Figures from 2015 reveal that over 100 public school unions in Wisconsin have voted to decertify in the past two years.

Now for the bad news. Getting any kind of union reform bill through the legislature in Sacramento, especially one that would interrupt the union’s gravy train, let alone derail it, has little chance of passage. Let’s face it – CTA pretty much owns the Legislature. As former California State Senate leader Dom Perata has said, the union considers itself “the co-equal fourth branch of government.” Nevertheless, Ms. Grove is to be commended for her effort, and it will be interesting to see how the unions spread their poison in the legislature and, just as importantly, how they spin the bill to the public.

Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.

Originally published by UnionWatch.org

Landmark California teacher case enters next phase

As reported by the Sacramento Bee:

A court case with the potential to upend how California hires and fires teachers enters a new phase today.

The initial ruling in Vergara v California dealt a direct challenge to the state’s educational status quo. It deemed unconstitutional laws that govern when teachers get tenure, dictate how they are fired, and mandate that rookie teachers go first in times of budget-driven layoffs. It handed education reformers a major victory in a national fight over teacher employment, all the more significant because it happened in California, a state where the California Teachers Association holds significant sway in the Capitol and lawmakers reject the types of changes at stake.

Oral arguments on the appeal happen today at the Second District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles. In the state’s corner is the CTA, which has assailed the lower court ruling and joined California in filing an appeal. They’ll share oral argument time with the state today; their national teachers union brethren have weighed in, too. The plaintiffs have high-power attorney Theodore Boutrous, Jr., who helped argue the successful challenge to Proposition 8 and is representing Apple in its clash with the feds. …

How Government Unions Are Destroying California

Calpers headquarters is seen in Sacramento, California, October 21, 2009. REUTERS/Max Whittaker

California was once the state that everyone looked up to. With the best weather and natural resources, we were full of hope and innovation. We had the best public schools, a world class system of higher education, the best freeways, infrastructure to provide fresh water to our growing population, which also doubled as a source of clean energy through hydro-electric power, a business-friendly environment where entire industries grew in entertainment, aerospace and technology, making our economy virtually recession-proof.

Then in 1978, then-governor Jerry Brown signed an executive order that imposed union-shop collective bargaining on public agencies in California, and the rise of public-sector union power began.

Today, public-sector unions are the most powerful political force in our state. They control a majority of our state Legislature and might control a supermajority in November if a few swing districts fall their way. No politician, Democrat, Republican or Independent, acts without considering how it will affect the union agenda.

These government unions press 100 percent for a progressive agenda, and they consistently agitate for increased spending. In two areas, the quality of our public education system and the financial health of our cities and counties, the consequences of government union power have been catastrophic.

Public Schools

The teachers’ unions, usually a local affiliate of the California Teachers Association, control most of our school boards, leading to control of our public schools. It is more than a coincidence that our public schools rank near the bottom in every category among the 50 states.

As lobbyists for staff and teachers, who are paid to run our public schools, public sector unions fight to maintain the status quo. They protect incompetent teachers, they permit excellent teachers to be dismissed in layoffs, they actively oppose charter schools, they fight poor parents who try to employ Parent Trigger Laws, and they conduct an active campaign 24/7 against any form of school choice.

The financial power of teachers unions:

  • There are over 266,255 public school teachers in California.
  • Each pays at least $1,000 in union dues annually.
  • The CTA acknowledges spending up to 40 percent of those dues explicitly on politics. That is $106 million per year.
  • If the lawyers in Friedrichs are right — that all public union spending is political — the actual total is $266 million per year.
  • Unions for non-teacher staff also are active. There are 215,000 school staff employees who are members of the CSEA (California State Employees Association), who each pay approximately $500 annually in dues. If all of those dues are spent on politics, that adds $107 million more for political spending annually.
  • The total spent by public education unions alone is estimated to be $373 million per year – just in California.

Pensions

Police and firefighter unions do the most damage at the local level. They have attained unsustainable pensions, known as “3%@50”, meaning that a member of that bargaining unit is eligible at age 50 for a pension equivalent to 3% of his highest salary times their number of years of service. While the age of eligibility has been raised for new public safety employees entering the workforce, the vast majority of active police and firefighters still retain these “3%@50” benefits. So at age 50, a 20-year veteran can retire with a pension equivalent to 60% of their highest year’s salary, which can be manipulated through spiking, and a 30-year veteran is eligible for 90% of his or her highest salary.

These pension requirements are held under the “California Rule” to be irreversible. In other words, once they have been adopted, democracy is incapable of turning off the spigot. With the spigot running constantly, communities go bankrupt. First, they cut other services. Then they increase taxes. Then they refuse to pay bondholders, so no one will invest again.

Current unfunded liabilities in California:

At CalPERS: $93.5 billion (ref. page 120, “Funding Progress,” CalPERS 6-30-2015 financial report).

At CalSTRS: $72.7 billion (ref. page 118, “Funding Progress,” CalSTRS 6-30-2015 financial report).

Local Unfunded Liabilities add considerably to this total, since CalPERS, with assets of $301 billion, and CalSTRS, with assets of $158 billion, only constitute 62 percent of California’s $752 billion in state and local pension fund assets. If all of these systems in aggregate were 75 percent funded, which is probably a best case estimate given the poor stock market performance since the official numbers were released, the total unfunded pension liabilities for California’s state and local government workers would be $256 billion.

And $256 billion in unfunded liabilities, a staggering amount, still understates the problem for two reasons: First, these pension funds may not succeed in securing a 7.5 percent average annual return in the coming decades. If not, then they will not earn enough interest to prevent their funding ratios from getting even worse. Also, this doesn’t take into account “OPEB,” or “other post employment benefits,” primarily health insurance. The unfunded OPEB liability just for Los Angeles County is officially recognized at over $30 billion.

A realistic estimate of the total unfunded liabilities for retirement obligations to state and local workers in California is easily in excess of $500 billion. These benefits, which are financially unsustainable and far more generous than the taxpayer funded benefits available to ordinary private sector workers, were forced upon local and state elected officials through the unchecked p0wer of government unions.

*   *   *

Bob Loewen is the chairman of the California Policy Center.

Supreme Court Justices Are About To Tip The Scales In California Politics

Photo courtesy Envios, flickr

Photo courtesy Envios, flickr

California politics could be shaken up this spring when the U.S. Supreme Court hands down its decisions in two potentially landmark cases.

The framers of the U.S. Constitution thought they were keeping the judiciary out of politics, but it hasn’t worked out that way. Today the Supreme Court exercises so much power over our lives that if one of the justices mentions retirement, half the country experiences chest pains. And the stress is not unwarranted: Policies that were created by judges can be reversed by judges.

Right now the Supreme Court is considering whether to change the rules that control state redistricting, and whether to abolish mandatory union dues for public employees. The impact of the two decisions could make California’s predictable elections a lot less predictable.

In the redistricting case, Evenwel v. Abbott, the issue is whether Texas should be allowed — perhaps even required — to draw its legislative district boundaries based on eligible voters instead of total population.

For example, an Assembly district might have a population of half a million people but far fewer citizens who are eligible to vote. The court’s ruling could result in the district’s boundaries being redrawn to take in new geographical areas with more citizens and fewer immigrants. The decision could scramble the political map in Texas and potentially in other states with a high proportion of non-citizens, including California.

Until the mid-20th century, the federal courts stayed out of state redistricting. That changed when Chief Justice Earl Warren decided to get involved.

As governor of California in the 1940s, Warren had opposed a plan to draw district lines based on population instead of geographical area. At the time, rural Senate districts with fewer voters had the same political power as urban districts jammed with voters. The votes of city residents were, in a sense, unequal to the votes of rural residents. Los Angeles was outvoted on everything.

As chief justice, Warren had second thoughts about the fairness of that arrangement. In two landmark decisions, Baker v. Carr and Reynolds v. Sims, the court imposed a “one person, one vote” standard that required voting districts to have roughly equal populations.

But the Evenwel case could be a new landmark.

The second case that could shake up California politics, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, may determine whether public employees have the right to refuse to pay union dues. Ten California teachers are suing the CTA over the automatic deduction from their paychecks of “agency fees,” or what unions call “fair share fees.”

Public employee unions have had the power to collect fees from non-members ever since the Supreme Court ruled in a 1977 case, Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, that mandatory dues were legal as long as no one was forced to pay for a union’s political activities. But the teachers argue that everything the union does is a political activity, because it negotiates with government officials for salaries and benefits paid from tax dollars.

If the court rules against the union, the continuous stream of cash that has flowed from teachers’ paychecks to the California Teachers Association could slow to a trickle. That may limit the CTA’s campaign spending, which for decades has flooded the political landscape to elect union-friendly lawmakers. Other public employee unions could find themselves in the same boat.

The Supreme Court’s decisions could unsettle California politics virtually overnight.

We’ve had some low-turnout elections, but this must be some kind of record. Thirty-eight million people live in California and its future may be decided by nine voters.

 

The Case That Could End Forced Union Dues

http://www.dreamstime.com/-image1661658The U.S. Supreme Court will hear from 10 teachers Monday in a case that could upend decades of labor law by granting public-sector workers the right refuse to pay union dues.

Generations of lawmakers and legal experts have struggled with the question of whether unions can require mandatory payments. The Supreme Court ruled in the 1977 case Abood v. Detroit Board of Education that unions can collect dues so long as the mandatory payments are used solely on representation costs and not political activities. Workers are allowed to pay fees instead of full dues if they don’t want to fund the political activities of the union.

Rebecca Friedrichs and the nine other teachers, however, don’t want to make any payments to the California Teachers Association (CTA). They also assert the process to opt-out of paying full dues or partial fees should be an opt-in system instead. The Supreme Court agreed Jun. 30 to hear their case. Here are the nine most important facts about Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association.

1. Free-Riders Or Captive Passengers

The question before the court is whether the teachers have the right to disassociate from their union. To the teachers and their supporters, the case could mean the end of laws that restrict worker freedom. To opponents, though, unions are what give workers a voice and limiting their power will adversely impact their ability to fairly communicate and negotiate with their employers.

The teachers have argued mandatory union payments violate their constitutional right to free-speech. They said the union often engages in activities or takes a position they neither support nor wish to fund. The union disputes the argument by noting they are legally compelled to represent the teachers regardless of whether they pay dues. Therefore its only fair all workers should have to pitch into the cost of representation.

“The court also has implemented various procedural requirements to ensure that unions are properly reimbursed for chargeable costs,” the union stated in its brief to the court. “While protecting objecting non-members from having their funds used for purposes not germane to collective bargaining and contract administration.”

When a union gets voted in as the exclusive representative for a workplace, they are required by law to collectively bargain for all the workers. Unions often warn workers could just free-ride on those benefits were dues an option.

“The free-rider argument is bad for several reasons,” Jacob Huebert, senior attorney at the Liberty Justice Center, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “These people don’t consider the union to be a benefit.”

The teachers are allowed to leave their union but are still required to pay the representation fees. If they leave, they lose their liability services and the ability to talk at union meetings.

2. Who Exactly Is Rebecca Friedrichs

It all started when Friedrichs, while teaching out of Buena Park, Calif., tried to leave her union. She felt it benefited its members at the expense of the students. Though she could leave and forfeit most union benefits, she was still forced to continue paying dues. She and a group of other teachers were left with no choice but to file a lawsuit in April of 2013.

“Many of the things the union bargained for made it harder for me,” Friedrichs recalled Thursday during a phone interview with reporters. “To the union, salary and seniority came before everything else.”

Her first encounter with the union culture was when she was an assistant teacher at the beginning of her career. At the time, she said she felt as though the teacher who worked in the classroom next to hers was abusive towards her students. The teacher, she said, couldn’t be fired because the union had implemented a seniority structure. Friedrichs eventually took a leadership position in the union but was still unable to change what she saw as a bad culture.

“I wanted to be there to speak common sense,” Friedrichs said. “But the response from union leadership was to ignore everything I tried to do.”

3. The Case Goes Far Beyond Just Teachers

A decision in favor of the teachers is likely to go beyond just schools. All government workers could be granted the right to stop funding union activities since the teachers are technically public-sector employees. Such a decision could be devastating to the labor movement which has already lost a lot of members in the private-sector.

“It’s an extremely important case,” Huebert said. “It certainly might be a landmark case, especially if they side with Friedrichs.”

Huebert adds the case should only impact public-sector workers and not private. The Supreme Court will decide on a wide variety of issues this session, from how sentencing hearings are conducted to whether colleges admission offices should consider race. NYU Law Professor Richard Epstein, though, says the Friedrichs case could very well be the most important.

“This is a case that attracted scrutiny on both sides,” Epstein told TheDCNF. “In some ways this is the most important case this session.”

The case seeks to reverse the decision in Abood, which has allowed public-sector unions to require mandatory payments for nearly three decades. Abood also dealt with teachers, but the decision set a precedent that impacted all public-sector employees.

4. Are Public Sector Unions Done For? Probably Not.

Unions have argued on numerous occasions the case is aimed at destroying the labor movement. Membership is likely to go down, but many workers are still likely to stay unionized. Former Supreme Court Clerk Carrie Severino notes the case will not take down public-sector unions.

“It’s not a victory that will take down the unions,” Severino, now chief counsel for Judicial Crisis Network, told TheDCNF. “It just gives people the right to choose.”

Federal employees already have the right to not fund unions, yet membership is still fairly high. In states that have passed right-to-work legislation, all workers are allowed the same privilege, yet it hasn’t destroyed the unions. The policy, which has passed in 25 states, outlaws mandatory union dues or fees as a condition of employment. Terry Pell, a lawyer representing the teachers, predicts the membership drop will be slight.

“A 10 percent drop in members won’t impact their ability to bargain,” Pell said during a Thursday call with reporters. “The 25 states show that.”

Pell said the biggest difference once right-to-work is passed is that the salaries of union leaders go down.

5. The Beneficial Burden Of Collective Bargaining

Collective bargaining is the burden put on unions when they become the exclusive representative for a workplace. It means they are required by law to benefit all the workers they represent. Collective bargaining already comes with a huge benefit often overlooked during the free-rider debate.

“When you have a union whose already in power to be the monopoly bargainer,” Severino said. “That’s already a huge benefit to unions.”

The Heritage Foundation notes in a fact sheet that the union claim is very misleading. Exclusive representation is not the only way a union can organize workers. Unions can choose to only represent dues paying workers by becoming a member-only organization. A member-only union, though, would not have monopoly rights and therefore other unions could try to organize the same workplace. It’s an option they tend to avoid.

6. Recent Cases Give Union Critics Hope

Supporters are optimistic the court will side with Friedrichs given recent decisions. In the 2015 case Harris v. Quinn, the court ruled Illinois state home healthcare workers could not be forced to pay union dues. The decision found a middle ground by only applying to the workers upon whom the case was centered.

The court was faced with the question of whether home healthcare providers were public-sector employees. State healthcare workers are required to fund the union which represents them. The Friedrichs case has a much broader scope. Teachers are already considered public employees, therefore a decision in their favor is much more likely to impact all government workers.

“The middle ground is essentially accepting the opt-in argument,” Epstein stated. “That’s why this case is so much more important than Harris.”

7. The Powerful Groups Behind The Case

The Center for Individual Rights (CIR) is a non-profit public interest firm representing Friedrichs and the other teachers involved in the case. Pell said they looked for teachers that were willing to join onto a lawsuit. For a case to be considered by the courts, the plaintiffs must have standing by proving in some way they have suffered damages.

“We were pleasantly surprised when there were so many teachers focused on this,” Pell said. “It came together much more quickly than other cases.”

Pell added that the response showed them many teachers were discontent with their union. The case has also attracted a lot of attention from outside groups and lawmakers. The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, the Cato Institute and the Goldwater Institute have all filed legal briefs in support of the teachers. The organizations are primarily conservative and libertarian leaning. Labor unions have condemned the lawsuit as being nothing more than a coordinated attack by the right.

Nevertheless Labor unions are some of the most powerful political entities and fighting them is not an easy task. The AFL-CIO, AFSCME and the Service Employees International Union among others have banned together against the teachers. Even local unions have spoken out about the case. Some of the most influential unions have also submitted legal briefs urging the justices to rule against the teachers.

8. Workers Would Still Be Able To Unionize

Union leaders have claimed the case is an attack on the rights of workers to collectively come together. The teachers in the case, though, counter the argument by noting its actually about giving workers a choice.

“The main thing you need to know is that this is an attack on working people’s freedom to come together and form unions, plain and simple,” the AFL-CIO noted. “These are the nurses who make sure their patients have what they need to get well and the teachers who advocate for their students and class sizes.”

The case does not seek to prevent workers from organizing despite the union claim. A decision in favor of the teachers would be very unlikely to outlaw the right to unionize. Instead it would simply mean public-sector employees would have the right not to participate or fund their workplace union if they so choose.

“This case does not impact public employees and their right to join a union,” Pell added. “It impacts a union funding mechanism.”

Friedrichs notes unions would be compelled to do what’s best of their members if workers were free to leave.

9. How An Opt-In System Might Impact Unionization

CTA states the opt-out system is legal and fair. It allows workers the right to refrain from funding union political activities. If a worker doesn’t want their dues going to politics they can simply sign a form and mail it to the union. The teachers included as a secondary point to their lawsuit that an opt-in system would be fairer. Essentially public-sector workers would have to request to join a union instead of getting automatically enrolled.

“The right to opt out sufficiently protects both First Amendment guarantees and other core constitutional rights,” CTA noted in its brief to the court. “There is no justification for carving out a special exception based solely on petitioners’ animus toward statutorily recognized union activities.”

Critics contest opting out is not always easy for workers. Rules regarding membership are not the same in every union. Most unions only allow members to leave at certain points in the year. These opt-out windows are often not disclosed to members. Unions have also been known to ignore opt-out requests.

“They often don’t have good information on how to opt-out,” Huebert added. “And its often a difficult process.”

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This piece was originally published by the Daily Caller News Foundation