Union schemes, scams and some pushback

By Larry Sand
February 5, 2019

In light of the Janus decision, union rule-rigging and ensuing lawsuits continue.   

As the Janus case (which ultimately would give public employees a choice whether or not to pay money to a union as a condition of employment) was headed to the Supreme Court, many unions saw the writing on the wall and cooked up “trap language” schemes. This chicanery only allows dissenting workers to quit a union during a very brief specified time period, or be sucked in for another year. However, Los Angeles teacher Tommy Few tested the union’s ploy and scored a major victory. With help from the California Policy Center and Liberty Justice Center, he sued the United Teachers of Los Angeles in November after several requests to be relieved of all union dues went unanswered. Two weeks later, Few received a letter claiming that UTLA still has the right to take his money, but the union will refrain from doing so “rather than expend dues money on litigation.

Now it seems that UTLA will indeed have to “expend dues money on litigation.” After Few’s success, there is a new lawsuit in Los Angeles. With legal aid from the National Right to Work Foundation, Peggy Seager has filed a class action suit that asks the court to strike down the “window period,” and to order union officials to stop deducting unauthorized dues. In fact, just a couple of weeks ago NRTW won a similar case against the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees in Ohio. There, the settlement won by the workers ended the “window period” that blocked them from quitting, and they will also be refunded the money taken from them during the time the window policy was in effect.

Additionally, as EdSource’s John Fensterwald notes, Tommy Few’s case is still active. UTLA’s status as the exclusive bargaining agent for all district teachers is being challenged, and Few does not want to be shackled with the union’s contract. No fan of monopoly bargaining, he insists, “If I could represent myself, I would get a better deal.”

California’s SB 285, which became law in October, 2017, prohibits public employers from deterring or discouraging an employee from joining or remaining a member of a union. But now Assemblyman Steven Choi, R-Irvine, is countering with a bill that would prohibit public employers from deterring or discouraging workers to either join or opt out of a union. But since the California State Assembly is about three-fourths Democrat – many of whom are on the California Teachers Association payroll – Choi’s tame bill would seem to have less than zero chance of passage.

There are many other ways the California legislature has kowtowed to the unions that, to date, no legislator has challenged. For example, courtesy of  AB 119, public employers must provide the names, job title, work location, work, home, and personal cell phone number, personal email address, and home address of any new employee to the local union within 30 days of hire. The law also requires newbies to attend a mandatory union “orientation” meeting, during which a captive audience is lectured about the joys of union membership. Maybe in the spirit of fairness, some enterprising California legislator will cook up a bill that would require workers to attend a “disorientation” meeting, at which someone with a different POV would explain the downside of union membership. (Hey, I can dream, right?)

For pure chutzpah, however, Oregon Rep. Paul Holvey, is unparalleled. The Democrat from Eugene is planning to introduce House Bill 2643 in the current legislative session. As the Freedom Foundation reports, the measure would mandate that state and local governments pay the equivalent of each employee’s monthly dues directly to the union. In other words, union dues would be paid by the taxpayer. “Rather than paying a state employee a salary of $50,000, for example, from which $1,000 in agency fees would be deducted, the bill proposes to simply alter the arrangement on paper so that the employee’s revised salary is $49,000, with the state diverting the remaining $1,000 to the union itself.” You can bet the farm that if this bill passes, the California Teachers Association will direct every lobbyist it employs to try to worm this atrocity onto the books in the Golden State, and lawsuits challenging this outrageous Janus work-around would be sure to follow.

The unions and their legislative toadies seem to have an endless stream of schemes and scams cooked up as a result of the Janus decision. The unions’ long-established gravy train is being threatened, and they will stop at nothing – nothing – to keep it in motion.

 *   *   *

Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.

MORE GREAT ARTICLES