California Teachers Association is Losing Members
California’s political landscape is changing, and that’s cause for celebration.
In 2018, the Supreme Court’s Janus ruling prohibited the collection of union dues from public employees as a condition of employment. Before that ruling, with few exceptions, no dues meant no job.
By protecting a worker’s right to choose to financially support a union, Janus safeguards government employees’ First Amendment rights.
Enter California Policy Center, which helps government employees navigate the opt-out process. That effort reduces union membership – and therefore reduces the money union leaders use in politics. But it does something more: it saves government workers thousands of dollars over their careers. Among these are the teachers who have learned that their $1,000 a year is better spent in a Roth IRA than on union politics.
These teachers are part of the 59,710 public employees who opted out through our campaign.
The impact has sent a political tremor through government – from local school districts to Sacramento – as membership in the California Teachers Association, one of the largest and most powerful labor unions in the state, continues its post-Janus decline.
As usual, the great Mike Antonucci was first to report on this shake-up.
Antonucci announced his retirement earlier this month, shortly after delivering his latest update on union membership. In that report, Antonucci, relying on internal CTA documents, concluded that the number of local public education employees leaving CTA has nearly doubled – from 18,000 in 2019 to almost 36,000 in 2023.
Antonucci made a name for himself as an investigative reporter and director of the aptly named Education Intelligence Agency. He spent years tirelessly tracking the CTA. Heralded by Education Week as “the nation’s leading observer—and critic—of the two national teachers’ unions and their affiliates,” he was a consistent source of insight into the dark politics of California’s most powerful political organization.
But the struggle for workers’ rights continues. Although the Janus decision affirmed a government employee’s right to opt-out, many remain unaware of their rights. That’s owing largely to the CTA’s control of state lawmakers who have worked to undercut worker rights as established in Janus.
“On June 27, 2018, the very day the Supreme Court announced its decision in Janus, then-Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill making it illegal for government officials to say or do anything that might lead a government worker to opt out of their union,” said Will Swaim, president of the California Policy Center. “Newsom and the state legislature have followed that with a barricade of new laws to make it more difficult for government employees to even learn about their rights. For anyone familiar with police procedurals, it’s like an anti-Miranda rights.”
So, while progress is to be celebrated, CPC will remain essential to the fight for the rights of California’s workers.
Chris LaBella is a Research Fellow at California Policy Center, and a graduate of the University of California, Santa Barbara.