America’s most powerful union bosses are running a national smear campaign against 10 workers who fund their paychecks.
California teacher Rebecca Friedrichs and nine of her fellow educators are being vilified by executives of the country’s largest labor unions — including the National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers.
Using money taken from workers’ paychecks, union bosses are portraying Friedrichs and her peers as allies of evil corporations and white supremacists.
How did Friedrichs turn these self-styled champions of teachers against her? She is challenging their ability to take mandatory fees from non-members, in a case that has made its way before the U.S. Supreme Court.
“The case was brought by billionaires and wealthy CEOs like the Koch brothers who want to rewrite the rules to only benefit them,” said AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka.
America Works Together, a coalition run by NEA, AFT, AFL-CIO, Service Employees International Union and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, is trying to convince union members that Friedrichs will ruin their lives.
“Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association is being pushed by special interests and corporate CEOs in an attempt to damage protections for hard working families and our communities,” the coalition warns.
Last week, the unions flooded their social media channels with a public relations blitz, calling the Friedrichs case an attempt by libertarian billionaires Charles and David Koch to destroy unions.
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America Works Together is gathering signatures for an AFT petition demonizing the Center for Individual Rights, a nonprofit giving Friedrichs legal counsel. As of Monday, fewer than 18,000 people had signed the online petition.
Relying on research from a City University of New York union, America Works Together asserts CIR “has been funded by the Koch Brothers, other right-wing one-percenters, and even white supremacists.”
CIR president Terry Pell told Watchdog.org the unions are “complaining about imagined contributions to CIR” to distract from their own massive paychecks. America Works Together failed to respond to a request for comment.
Last year AFT paid Weingarten $557,875, AFSCME paid president Lee Saunders $348,745 and AFL-CIO paid Trumka $322,131. Eskelsen Garcia was paid $345,728 as NEA vice president — outgoing NEA president Dennis Van Roekel was paid $541,632.
“Neither of the Koch Brothers or their foundations supports CIR or are supporting Friedrichs v. CTA,” Pell said.
“This is a fight on behalf of public employees like Rebecca Friedrichs and millions of other everyday public employees who are forced to fund organizations that no longer represent their interests,” he explained.
“Rebecca Friedrichs is asking the Supreme Court to do away with state laws that force individuals to pay thousands of dollars a year to a union,” Pell said. “The unions have enjoyed millions of dollars in coerced dues from unwilling employees for decades.”
F. Vincent Vernuccio, labor policy director at the free-market Mackinac Institute, told Watchdog.org the union smear campaign against Friedrichs shows labor bosses are terrified about the possibility of losing forced dues.
“It’s funny that the unions are saying Friedrichs is an attack on working people when it’s really about taking away the unions’ ability to get a worker fired,” Vernuccio said. “It is a protection of workers, not an attack on workers.”
If the Supreme Court sides with the plaintiffs, Vernuccio said, the effective result would be right-to-work for public employees in all 50 states. Twenty-five states already have right-to-work laws.
“Right-to-work simply means a union can’t get a worker fired for not paying them,” he explained. “It doesn’t affect collective bargaining in any other way — and it doesn’t affect a worker’s ability to form a union or join a union in any way.”
Calling the union PR campaign against Friedrichs “strange,” Vernuccio predicted “the justices will likely uphold the Constitution and workers’ First Amendment right to not support politics they disagree with.”
A decision in Friedrichs vs. California Teachers Association is expected in the spring.
About the Author: Jason Hart is an Ohio-based labor reporter for Watchdog.org. He previously worked as a communications director for Media Trackers Ohio. Jason had several years of experience as a web developer and analyst before starting a successful career in journalism. Jason can be reached on Twitter at @jasonahart and by email at email@example.com. This article originally appeared in Watchdog.org and is republished here with permission.