Neil McCabe

In 2012, the CTA spent $21 million to successfully defeat Proposition 32, which would have prohibited paycheck-deductions to unions to support political causes. If that seems like a lot of money, consider the teachers union was only in for a third of the $65 million raised from dozens of other unions in the state.

With the defeat at the polls, California opponents to compulsory support of union political activities need are turning to the courts.

“Forcing educators to financially support causes that run contrary to their political and policy beliefs violates their First Amendment rights to free expression and association and cannot withstand First Amendment scrutiny,” said Michael A. Carvin, partner with Jones Day and lead counsel for the plaintiffs.

“The Supreme Court questioned the continued constitutionality of ‘agency shop’ laws last year in the Knox decision,” he said.

The Supreme Court ruled in the 2012 Knox v. Employees Intl. Union that the Service Employees International Union in California violated the First Amendment rights of its non-union members by forcing them to pay a 25 percent increase in union dues without their consent to help fight ballot initiatives in the state, he said.

In his majority opinion, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., wrote: “Because a public-sector union takes many positions during collective bargaining that have powerful political and civic consequences, the compulsory fees constitute a form of compelled speech and association that imposes a significant impingement on First Amendment rights.”

Dues and agency fees yield the CTA 2011 revenue of more than $191 million. The revenues came not only from member dues. The “agency shop” law means to compensate unions for their work “collective bargaining” on behalf of all workers, members and non-members, so non-union teachers are obligated to pay dues to a union they do not belong.

Depending on the local union, non-union member teachers in California can pay more than $1,000 a year to cover their share of collective bargaining expenses. These expenses include the CTA magazine “The California Educator,” despite the publication’s intense political tone and messages.

The CTA similarly charges programs advocating the gay rights agenda and union conferences and activities as collective bargaining.

Annually, non-union member teachers can opt-out of the mandatory dues, but the law suit contends that the process is complicated and exposes teachers opting out to harassment.

The suit argues there is no compelling reason to continue that agency shop process.

Neil McCabe

Neil W. McCabe is a journalist working in Washington. He was a senior reporter for the Human Events newspaper and for many years a reporter for The Pilot, Boston's Catholic paper. In 2009, he deployed to Iraq with the Army as a combat historian for 15 months.