California Teachers: Forced Union Fees Violate First Amendment

Wednesday, 01 May 2013 02:20 PM

By Lisa Barron and Kathleen Walter

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Ten California schoolteachers are suing the state after being forced to pay union fees, claiming it violates their right to free speech.

Mike Carvin, lead counsel in the lawsuit brought by the Center for Individual Rights, tells Newsmax TV that California extracts full union dues from the teachers despite the fact they don’t want to be union members.

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That violates the First Amendment, he says,because “it requires them to subsidize associations with whom they disagree.”

“The unions make a number of controversial political and ideological stands, and so California is coercing one citizen, my client, to subsidize other citizens in their political beliefs,” Carvin said.

“California couldn’t require them to contribute to the Democratic or Republican Party or to the ACLU or right-to-life groups. So they obviously should not be able to coerce them into supporting these unions, which are at the center of a host of very important budgetary and political issues,” he continued.

The lawsuit also alleges that teachers who do not want to fund union activities face a difficult opt-out process.

“There’s no question that the unions view this coerced regime as very important to their survival,” Carvin said. “They view it as essential, and that reflects the fact that they’re not able to voluntarily attract . . . like all other interest groups need to do . . . donations from people who support them.”

If people do give fees, he maintains that “it should certainly be something where you opt in, where you say, 'I’d like to support the union,' not where you have to voluntarily opt out.”

California Teachers Association spokesman Frank Wells has called the lawsuit a “baseless challenge” intended to dilute worker rights, arguing that nobody is forced to spend money on political activity.

Carvin refutes that, saying the unions “try and distinguish between their bargaining activities and their political activities, but in reality you’re subsiding all of its activities — collective bargaining and political.”

The suit also targets the National Education Association. The NEA and the CTA, explains Carvin, “are very active political players that get involved” not only in issues affecting educational reform “but also issues like Prop 8, the gay-marriage issues, Obamacare, all kinds of things that reasonable people disagree about and which one citizen shouldn’t be required to subsidize another citizen’s political views on.”

If the teachers win the lawsuit, says Carvin, it would stop the unions “from coercing people to join their ranks.”

He added, “If they’ve got an important message and if they’re doing something good for employees, then there’s no reason to think that they won’t be able to voluntarily attract those people.”

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