On March 11, the Freedom Foundation filed a lawsuit against the California Teachers Association (CTA), challenging the so-called “membership cards” the union pressured the plaintiffs into signing without their affirmative consent as required under the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2018 ruling in Janus v. AFSCME.
Justice Samuel Alito wrote in his majority opinion:
Neither an agency fee nor any other payment to the union may be deducted from a nonmember’s wages, nor may any other attempt be made to collect such a payment, unless the employee affirmatively consents to pay. By agreeing to pay, nonmembers are waiving their First Amendment rights, and such a waiver cannot be presumed.
CTA’s failure to obtain the teachers’ clear and informed consent before deducting dues violates the spirit of the Janus decision, which was intended to protect the First Amendment rights of public-sector workers who don’t wish to be unionized.
The court put the onus on the unions to obtain the employee’s affirmative consent because unions have a history of exploiting workers who either don’t know their rights or are too intimidated to exercise them.
Even after Janus, unions are still up to their old tricks, and the CTA class-action lawsuit is a perfect example.
The CTA locked the plaintiffs into an irrevocable dues deductions scheme without obtaining their legally valid consent. Mariah Gondeiro, a Freedom Foundation litigation attorney based in California, told the Daily Signal:
The unions are arguing they can lock people into these contracts because they signed these forms. But they don’t tell employees that they have an option to not fund the union. They don’t tell people that they are leaving out important facts. The teachers can’t consent to something they didn’t know about, and they did not know their rights.
She further highlighted the significance of the case:
We are trying to take Janus to an extra step because apparently the unions can’t abide by the law. So, we want to put in plain text what type of notice they have to give workers, because they need all the direction they can get. We want in the contract that they have a right to not financially support the union, and [that] by signing the agreement they are waiving their First Amendment rights. If they don’t include that type of language in the contract, there is no affirmative consent.
News outlets were quick to pick up on this story, quickly recognizing the lawsuit has the potential to reach the U.S. Supreme Court. This case could set an important precedent that unions across the country must provide sufficient notice to public employees before filling their own coffers.
An expansive list of news outlets running the story can be found below.