My students and I begin each morning reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. We proudly salute the banner of our great nation because we believe in “liberty and justice for all.” A disturbing truth haunts me during each pledge, however. Laws that favor unions over the needs of many students and teachers are robbing us of our promised “liberty and justice.”
Webster’s online dictionary defines liberty as “the quality or state of being free; positive enjoyment of various social, political, or economic rights and privileges; the power of choice.”
In 26 states, teachers are denied civil liberties by being forced to pay union dues as a condition of employment. To make matters worse, much of the dues are used to rob those teachers of justice.
In California, dues average $1,000 a year. Unions admit that more than 30 percent are used for “non-representational” politics that have nothing to do with serving their members. Furthermore, collective bargaining has become so political that many teachers believe the amount spent on political action is considerably higher than the 30 percent to which unions admit.
Sadly, much of the political activity leads to laws and practices that are harmful and objectionable to many teachers, their students, and the taxpayers who not only have to pay unions through tax-funded teachers’ salaries, but are hit again when union politics lead to increased taxes and undesirable laws.
Many Californians are shocked by the passage of AB 1266, which, beginning Jan. 1, will allow transgender students in K-12 schools to use bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with their “gender identity.” Teachers don’t want to harm or single out transgender children; however, teachers are protectors of all children in their care.
In order to give special protection to a very small minority of students, the great majority of children will be subjected to embarrassment and shame. As teachers learn of this law, many oppose it; however, the California Teachers Association (CTA) supported it fully, using the dues of its members.
Unions say that teachers who disagree with their political agenda can “opt out,” and become “agency fee payers.” Tragically, what they neglect to mention is that teachers who exercise their rights to free speech (by opting out of the “non-representational” political portion of the dues) are still required to pay approximately $700 a year. In return for these massive dues, fee payers are bullied, treated as outsiders, labeled “non-members,” and lose all “rights of membership” including liability insurance, voting privileges, and the right to serve within union leadership.
Furthermore, teachers are supposed to be grateful for unsolicited collective bargaining assistance that often creates negative work environments and leads to laws that protect incompetent teachers, increase taxes, and harm students.
In May 2013, nine children filed a lawsuit against the state seeking to challenge union-initiated laws that make it difficult for all students to access high-quality teachers. CTA and California Federation of Teachers (CFT) filed a motion to intervene, and were allowed to join as defendants against the children. Many teachers are cheering for the kids, but sadly, our forced dues are being used to fight against the very children we desire to protect.
As teachers, we have attempted to make our voices heard within our union leadership for years, but unfortunately, our personal liberties aren’t valuable to the union we’re forced to hire as our “representative.” As a result, nine other teachers and I are suing CTA and its affiliate National Education Association (NEA) to obtain freedom from forced unionism. Ironically, the union is using our dues to fund the court battle against us.
There are real-life consequences stemming from legal authority given to unions to collect forced dues. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” My friends and I lost our rights to “liberty and justice for all” the day we became teachers. This week we celebrate the “California Teacher Freedom Project;” it’s my hope that freedom-loving Americans will stand up for the individual liberties of all employees forced into unions.
Rebecca Friedrichs is an Orange County educator and one of the plaintiffs in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. This originally appeared as a guest editorial in the Riverside Press-Enterprise and appears here with permission from the author.