As often happens in our line of work, after the Freedom Foundation filed suit against the California Teachers Association in March, we received multiple phone calls from other concerned teachers facing the same or similar circumstances as our original plaintiffs.
Feeling isolated and defenseless against their union, these teachers were grateful to learn there was an organization like the Freedom Foundation willing to help them stand up for their rights.
Last week, we filed an Amended Complaint detailing two additional cases of CTA abuse of power and process for the court’s consideration.
Plaintiff Stephanie Christie was told by a union official the form she was signing stated she would remain a member of the union, “(and) not much else.” The union official specifically told her in an email, “(Y)ou are still able to leave the union, at any time, if you wish, but without this card, your membership might drop and then you will have to fill out all new paperwork and rejoin as if you were a new hire. Sounds like a lot of work to me.”
But when Stephanie called his bluff, the union changed its tune, saying she would not be allowed to resign due to “legalities,” and that she would remain a member of the union and would be forced to continue paying dues until she resubmitted a second resignation request in August of 2019.
Similarly, a union official induced co-plaintiff Jennifer Gribben to sign a dues deduction form by telling her the only way she could file a grievance against her employer was by being a member of the union.
This was false, but when Jennifer found out and tried to resign, union officials said she would have to remain a union member and pay dues for several more months before they could honor her request.
One of the defenses the defendants have raised in the CTA case is a good-faith argument. They state their actions were based on their existing Supreme Court precedent before the Supreme Court’s decision in Janus v. AFSCME, which freed public employees from having to support union political speech.
But as the stories of the CTA plaintiffs and countless other disgruntled public employees across the country show, the unions’ actions have been based on anything but good faith.
Unions have peddled false information, used pressure tactics and outright lied to public employees to get them to sign a dues deduction form. Despite Janus’ clear language noting that any waiver of the constitutional right to not support union political advocacy must be knowing and clear, unions across the country continue to trample on the rights of public employees to make an extra buck.
They refuse to follow the law, and unfortunately, all too often so do the lower courts.
More than one court within the 9th Circuit has now stated that dues deduction cards signed by public employees are nothing more than a private contract, ignoring the Supreme Court’s analysis detailing what is needed for a valid waiver of constitutional rights.
It’s likely the Supreme Court is going to have to step in again to tell lower courts that it meant what it said, and unions must obtain a clear and voluntary waiver of public employees’ First Amendment rights before taking their hard-earned wages.
In the meantime, the Freedom Foundation will continue to do all that we can to ensure Stephanie, Jennifer and public employees like them across the country don’t have to fight these battles against their union alone.