LOS ANGELES – Nearly five years after the U.S. Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling intended to break up the monopoly organized labor holds over state and local governments in much of the country, courtrooms are littered with cases challenging the myriad ways government employee unions continue to drag their feet.
Case in point, a first-of-its-kind federal lawsuit in California was filed on Monday against three Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) employees who denied access to information about where and when new hires would be required to attend mandatory orientation sessions sure to include a high-pressure recruiting pitch from the union designated by the state to represent them.
The Freedom Foundation, a national public policy watchdog specializing in informing public employees of their First Amendment rights to opt out of union membership and dues, filed the lawsuit when its public information request for the meetings dates and times was rejected in January.
Prohibiting the Freedom Foundation’s ability to access information about public employee orientation sessions is a violation of the organization’s First Amendment right to free speech.
In denying the request, the defendants –LAUSD superintendent Alberto Carvalho, general counsel Navera Reed, and, district litigation research coordinator Rita Gail Turner, cited California code § 3556, a wide-ranging California law signed by then-Gov. Jerry Brown on June 27, 2018.
The signing date was no accident: June 27 was the same day the Supreme Court ruled in Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) that public employees cannot be compelled to join or pay dues to a union as a condition of employment.
The new law was part of a specific effort to undermine the Janus decision and make what was once public information off-limits to anyone who wanted to inform newly-freed public employees from the government union monopoly.
“Not only is LAUSD refusing to honor a valid request for what is obviously public information under California’s Public Records Act, but it’s making the very same information available to unions based solely on their pro-union positions,” said Timothy R. Snowball, a Freedom Foundation attorney. “California law doesn’t supersede the First Amendment, especially when it discriminates on the basis of political ideology.”
The suit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, seeks a declaratory judgment stating that the district’s actions violate the Constitution, injunctive relief forcing LAUSD to stop rejecting such public records requests, and nominal damages against each of the three defendants for violating the organization’s First Amendment rights.
“Five years ago, Big Labor lost its monopoly over millions of public employees,” Snowball said. “But rather than trying to earn their members’ loyalty by actually producing a service worth paying for, unions responded by teaming up with state officials to gain the government’s sanction to bully and deceive them into believing Janus never even happened.”
“Greedy special interests often demand a government-enforced monopoly when they know they can’t compete fairly in the open market,” he said. “But it’s even worse when what they can’t compete with is the truth about themselves.”