Union Lawyers Claim Teacher Forced Fees Are Constitutional
(source: National Right To Work December 2015 Newsletter)
In early September, attorneys representing 10 independent-minded Golden State educators in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association presented the U.S. Supreme Court with bombshell evidence.
The evidence came from the official handbook of the National Education Association (NEA), America’s largest teacher union and the parent union of the respondents in Friedrichs.
This case, which is based largely on U.S. Supreme Court precedents argued and won by National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation attorneys on behalf of employee clients, challenges the permissibility of government-sector forced union fees under the First and Fourteenth Amendments.
And the NEA Handbook passages quoted by the plaintiffs in the merits brief they submitted just before Labor Day are largely intended to give marching orders to the agents of the NEA and its state and local subsidiaries who negotiate teacher contracts with school districts.
Teachers Specializing in Hard Subjects Get ‘Trapped in Union-Obtained Pay Systems’
“Respondent Unions advocate numerous policies that affirmatively harm [many] teachers . . . ,” charged the Friedrichs plaintiffs, represented by a team of lawyers led by Michael Carvin of the Cleveland-based firm Jones Day.
“NEA considers any ‘system of compensation based on an evaluation of an education employee’s performance’ to be ‘inappropriate’ and ‘opposes providing additional compensation to attract and/or retain education employees in hard-to-recruit positions.’”
Teachers who “care more about rewarding merit than protecting mediocre teachers” should “oppose these policies,” concluded the Friedrichs plaintiffs.
And “teachers who specialize in difficult subjects (like chemistry or physics), but are trapped in union-obtained pay systems that stop them from outearning gym teachers,” should also oppose such policies.
Until Recently, Union Lawyers Simply Assumed Monopolistic Unionism ‘Benefits’ All Teachers
Why is the evidence cited by Mr. Carvin and his associates here so important?
In the past, Big Labor lawyers, like other apologists for government-sector compulsory unionism, have sought to defend its constitutionality as well as its general appropriateness largely on the never-substantiated assumption that ALL public employees somehow “benefit” from being under union monopoly control.
Even employees who unequivocally prefer to remain union-free are Big Labor “beneficiaries,” union lawyers implied or flatly claimed.
As recently as this spring, in fact, the CTA union’s team of lawyers in the Friedrichs case (then led by Jeremiah Collins of the D.C. firm Bredhoff and Kaiser) falsely characterized the forced-fee scheme to which the plaintiffs object in this way: It is “simply a requirement that a nonmember teacher who receives . . . additional compensation as a result of the Unions’ efforts . . must pay a share of the Unions’ costs.”
Now CTA Bosses Are Desperately Trying to Change the Subject
But now that the plaintiffs’ attorneys have entered into the record stark evidence from the NEA union hierarchy’s own handbook that monopoly NEA “representation” actually means LESS compensation for vast numbers of objecting and potentially objecting teachers, CTA lawyers are trying to change the subject.
In the 60-page merits brief they submitted to the High Court November 6, current Counsel of Record David Frederick and his associates never denied that the NEA Handbook passages cited by the plaintiffs and quoted above mean
exactly what they say regarding union -boss opposition to higher pay for outstanding teachers and teachers with rare skills.
Instead, they opted to switch the focus to other union contract provisions related to health and dental insurance, sick leave, maximum mandatory working hours, and alternative work-schedule options.
Unionized and Union-Free Teachers Alike Get Employer-Provided Health Insurance
The fact is, teachers in all 50 states, regardless of whether state law encourages, permits, or bars union monopoly bargaining in K-12 schools, receive health and dental insurance, sick leave, maximum working hours, and alternative work-schedule options as part of their compensation package.
And in all 50 states, such public schoolteacher benefits are financed by taxpayers, not by union treasury money.
Of course, since the public resources available for K-12 employee compensation are finite in all 50 states, more generous insurance and sick-leave policies can and often do come at the expense of teacher salaries.
What’s different is that, in Big Labor-dominated states like California, Illinois, and New York, teacher union bosses wield the statutory power to speak for all educators in negotiations with the school district over health insurance, sick leave, etc.
Incredibly, in their November brief to the Supreme Court, CTA lawyers contended that, based on this special monopoly-bargaining privilege alone, their clients deserve the constitutional prerogative to force all public educators in such states to bankroll a teacher union, or be fired from their jobs!
‘I Will Support and Defend the Constitution Of the United States’
“The High Court now has the opportunity in Friedrichs v. CTA to correct the grave error it made 38 years ago when it first upheld state statutes authorizing public-sector forced union fees,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and the National Right to Work Committee.
“The nine justices shouldn’t hesitate
to reverse the pro-compulsory-unionism 1977 precedent, Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, that is being challenged here.
“After all, even the teacher union respondents in Friedrichs now tacitly acknowledge the falsehood of Abood’s critical, but unexamined premise that all public employees who are subject to union monopoly bargaining ‘benefit’ from it.
“But it’s not only courts that have a duty to uphold the U.S. Constitution.
“In all 50 states, including the states that currently have laws on the books authorizing government union bosses to trample public employees’ free speech by forcing them to pay union dues or fees as a job condition, elected officials take an oath to defend the federal Constitution.
“Take California, where elementary school teacher Rebecca Friedrichs and her fellow plaintiffs in the Friedrichs case are employed.
“In the Golden State, legislators and other public officers must before taking office solemnly swear or affirm that they will ‘support and defend the Constitution of the United States . . . against all enemies, foreign and domestic . . . .’”
Right to Work Supporters Will Keep Turning up Heat On State Candidates
Mr. Mix continued: “National Right to Work Committee members and other supporters believe that elected officials in states like California, Illinois, and New York have an obligation to fight for repeal of their statutes empowering union bosses to shake down public servants for union dues and fees.
“Over the course of 2016, Committee members and their allies will keep turning up the heat on primary and general election candidates for state office.
“Candidates across America will feel more and more pressure to pledge to protect employees’ First Amendment freedom by abolishing union monopoly bargaining as well as forced union fees in the public sector.
“Our Founding Fathers never envisioned that the judiciary alone would be able to ward off threats to Americans’ constitutional liberties.
“It’s long past time for elected officials to confront the danger to the First Amendment poised by forced unionism and union monopoly bargaining.”