Teachers Stand Against Union Tyranny

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads, in part, “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech.” Yet, because of laws that favor powerful unions and “labor peace” over the rights of individuals, millions of public school teachers have lost their rights to free speech and free association. We are required, as a condition of employment, to financially support teachers unions and their political agendas.

Americans of all political preferences would rise up against such tyranny if their rights were squelched by corporations, yet teachers unions have been legally trampling the free-speech rights of teachers throughout our nation for decades through forced dues used to fund their one-sided political agendas. This practice is unconscionable; especially considering that unions are tax-free “corporations” who long ago abandoned the individual rights and desires of their members.

For years, many brave teachers have attempted to make our voices heard within our union leadership, but unfortunately, the union we’re compelled to hire as our “representatives” doesn’t value our personal liberties. Ten teachers in California have had enough. We’re suing the California Teachers Association and its affiliate, the National Education Association, to obtain freedom from compelled support for unionism.

Ironically, the union is using our involuntary dues monies to fund the court battle against us.

When unions started, at the turn of the last century, their united support for individual rights was needed and welcomed. Sadly, unions have become what they used to fight – powerful, entrenched organizations more focused on self-preservation and pushing their political agenda than on protecting the rights of individual members.

In education, the behavior of unions is even more horrifying because, in addition to the obliteration of teachers’ constitutional rights, our students suffer even greater injustices as the unions use their ill-gotten billions to promote political policies that often create negative consequences inside and outside of the classroom.

The union is currently taking a stand that puts the rights of sex offenders and kidnappers over the rights and safety of school children. NEA, the largest, most powerful teachers’ union in America, came out against a bipartisan bill that would prohibit convicted sex offenders, murderers and kidnappers from working in schools. I don’t believe in allowing these people in our classrooms and neither do the teachers I know; however, we’re all forced to financially support this dangerous and shocking position.

Unions continue to tell the public that teachers who disagree with their politics have no real complaints because they can “opt out.” Tragically, what they neglect to mention is that we can only opt out of the portion of the dues the union decides are political. We are not permitted to opt out of the collective bargaining portion of the dues, yet much of collective bargaining is political.

Every penny on the bargaining table is provided by hardworking taxpayers, yet, shockingly, unions force teachers to fund policies that are often harmful to taxpayers and the children they’re working so hard to support.

Teachers who exercise their right to opt out of the unions’ acknowledged political dues are still required to pay approximately $650 annually for highly political collective bargaining. In return, fee payers are bullied, treated as outsiders, labeled “nonmembers” and lose all “rights of membership” including liability insurance (although they’re still paying for the liability insurance of the union hierarchy). Fee payers lose their voting privileges within collective bargaining, and the right to serve within union leadership. So, although they pay full collective bargaining fees, they’re completely voiceless.

Because of powerful collective-bargaining agreements with school districts, the union has control over teachers’ email and staff mailboxes. Unions censor and decide what communications teachers are able to send and receive, so it’s easy to control members by withholding vital information.

Teachers are often in the dark about how their money is being spent in the political process both inside and outside of collective bargaining. When dissenting teachers try to share liberating information with their colleagues through district communication channels, those teachers are subject to discipline by district administration.

The unions also use fear to influence teachers into supporting union causes. Teachers are subjected to constant political manipulation during mandatory staff meetings at which they’re strong-armed on issues such as opposing school choice for children. Then the unions spend tens of millions of teacher-funded dollars, and use the pressured assistance of teachers as political “boots on the ground” to help block the passage of student-friendly ideas like vouchers. Any teachers who find the courage to share opposing views on union political issues are subject to intimidation and shamed into silence.

When teachers ask how they can avoid supporting the union’s political agenda, they’re told to check a box on their union membership form. This “check the box” system was dreamed up by the unions many years ago when they added an additional $20 “contribution” to teachers’ union dues, which already average $1,000 a year. Checking this box gives teachers a mere $20 annual refund from the union’s “voluntary” PAC funds.

This sleight of hand is confusing many teachers who honestly believe they’re opting out of union politics by checking a box when, in fact, they’re still giving approximately $350 of their annual dues toward the union’s admitted nonrepresentational political agenda, and another $650 a year in mostly political collective bargaining fees. Since many of these teachers have moral beliefs and fiscal standards that place them on the exact opposite side union politics, this practice is unethical and shady at best.

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 Orange County Register and appears here with permission from the author.

6 replies
  1. HOMER WOOD says:

    As I watched the pathetic Rebecca Friedrichs rant on and on while on the extremely right wing Heritage Foundation regarding unions I was of the opinion that she is a plant who is voicing the concerns of the extremists in America who want to do away with the middle class and working poor. She simply is not intelligent enough to have thought through all of the talking points she ranted about. She is nothing more than a bought and paid for goon of the Koch brothers and groups like theirs.

    I wonder if she is aware of the many benefits, salary incentives and many other things that that this thankless bitch has enjoyed for years that the union provided her with while the very groups she is whoring herself out to would have denied her then and now. If I worked with this rat I would make her so unwelcome in so many ways that she would seek out the right wingers she has sold her soul too and leave teaching. She is a gutless, repugnant, two faced, scumbag who if anything suffers from mental illness and her crusade against the teachers union is a smoke screen for her lies, lies like the payroll deduction from teachers pay checks is a cost to tax payers. She needs a punch in her ugly lying face. What a skank.

  2. Ed Ring says:

    Homer – we’re going to assume that your vicious remarks are not representative of the teachers union you are apparently defending. It would be appropriate to remove your comment, something we rarely do, but since you have refrained from four-letter-word profanity or direct threats, we’ll leave it up for the world to see. You are completely misinformed regarding Ms. Friedrichs, who has endured worse abuse than you just dished out in order to fight for what she sincerely believes in. Why don’t you watch these closing arguments in the recent Vergara case, then read the official reaction of the CTA:

    VERGARA CLOSING ARGUMENTS
    http://studentsmatter.org/marcellus-a-mcrae-delivers-plaintiffs-closing-arguments-in-vergara-v-california/

    CALIFORNIA TEACHERS ASSOCIATION REACTION TO VERGARA DECISION
    http://www.cta.org/Vergara

    Those two links tell me everything I need to know about the teachers union.

    If you want to continue to comment on this forum, you’ll need to tone it down some. As for your one legitimately debatable point; I’m with Friedrichs. Every dime that flows into government unions comes from the taxpayers. I hope her case proceeds in the same way the Vergara case did. We can disagree, Mr. Wood, without having to descend to personal attacks.

  3. Cathleen says:

    Thank you for this article.

    I am an involuntary member of my local union, CTA and NEA. Everything here is true. We are further coerced into supporting a one-sided PAC because our districts are exempt from paying state disability insurance. We can only get it through our membership in CTA (“The Standard”).

  4. David Pitson says:

    Good luck with the case at the Supreme Court.

    I am grateful that you had the courage to see this issue through.

  5. Joe says:

    I agree with Homer. With all due respect to the deceased, I hope the loss of Scalia’s vote has Friedrichs and the entire National Right to Work Committee crying big crocodile tears.

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  1. […] either instance, workers still pay the full subsidy for the union’s own political activities. The point of this chicanery is to confuse workers into thinking that they’ve exercised their opt-out rights when they […]

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