California’s government union leaders love their monopoly — their control over government employees, public officials and the public. So by June 27, when the Supreme Court declared in Janus v AFSCME that a “state’s extraction of agency fees from nonconsenting public sector employees violates the First Amendment,” union leaders already controlled the information field.
In the weeks leading up to the decision, California state lawmakers passed, and Gov. Jerry Brown had signed, a series of bills to shut down free speech that might (as one bill put it) “deter or discourage membership” in a union.
California law has long allowed government union leaders to manage the flow of information to government workers. This has included communications to teachers’ email accounts and work mailboxes.
During the LAUSD teacher strike, a Los Angeles County teacher noted that everyone received union planning calendars in their mailboxes helpfully headlined “I’m In!” – a sign of solidarity. While many of this teacher’s colleagues were indifferent or even hostile to the strike, the union sought to construct an alternate reality in the mailroom.
A planner distributed to teachers at a LA County school
Outside groups can’t discuss with government workers the impact of the Janus v AFSCME decision, but the the left-leaning Southern Poverty Law Center’s “Teaching Tolerance” gets easy access to teachers’ mailboxes in at least one San Diego County public school.
“Teaching Tolerance” teaches no such thing: it calls on educators to “dig deep into the social justice standards,” to “teach in solidarity,” and to order social justice kits for their classrooms. The message from union leaders is clear: embrace us and you can have access to our members – and more importantly, to the students.
Not all teachers are on board. “If ‘diversity and equity’ is the aim of the union, then I wonder if we can ask for such equitable courtesy in filling teachers boxes with magazines or literature with conservative views?” asked a San Diego teacher who requested anonymity.
Clearly, real viewpoint diversity remains somewhere in the future – the distant future, so long as union leaders regulate the mailroom.
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Koppany Jordan serves as the Assistant to the President of California Policy Center