California Teachers Suing to End Mandatory Union Dues



The Center for Individual Rights (CIR) has filed a lawsuit against the NEA and the California Teachers Association, challenging the constitutionality of California’s “closed shop” law which requires all teachers in California to pay union dues.  The suit claims that the state’s agency shop law is an attack on First Amendment rights.  As you may know, last year the Supreme Court warned about the constitutionality of these types of dues in Knox v. Employees Intl. Union, 132 S.Ct.2277,2285 (2012).

A group of California teachers is preparing for a Supreme Court battle to overturn forced union dues in a groundbreaking lawsuit filed in June.

For nearly three decades, the Supreme Court has allowed closed-shop unionism, in which public employees must pay dues to labor groups handling collective bargaining negotiations.

The Supreme Court established Beck Rights in 1988 allowing workers to opt out of union dues for political activities, while continuing to pay for union negotiating expenses. The teachers are hoping to take that battle one step further by putting an end to all coercive union dues.

Ten California schoolteachers are challenging California’s policy of forcing all public employees to pay union dues for collective bargaining. The Center for Individual Rights (CIR) is aiding their suit. The CIR views the issue through the lens of the Constitution, rather than as a contest of labor policy.

“Our efforts are not anti-union; we are trying to solidify the First Amendment rights of public employees to freely assemble,” CIR president Terry Pell said.

Recently, CIR filed a preliminary injunction asking the Federal Court to enjoin California’s union fees. This is the first case challenging the compulsory payment of fees to support union collective bargaining in a few decades.



CIR asks court to enjoin union dues collection


Motion filed in case to protect teachers’ First Amendment Rights

Los Angeles, California, June 25, 2013-The Center for Individual Rights (CIR), together with lead counsel Michael Carvin of Jones Day, today filed a motion for a preliminary injunction in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, CIR’s case challenging the constitutionality of California’s “closed shop” law, which requires all teachers in the state to pay fees to teachers’ unions. Friedrichs is the first case challenging the compulsory payment of fees to support union collective bargaining in several decades.

Today’s motion argues that CIR’s ten California teacher plaintiffs are entitled to immediate relief barring further collection of fees because of the ongoing and irreparable injury those fees cause to their First Amendment rights.

While prior precedent prevents the lower courts from granting such an injunction, the motion points out that those cases upholding state closed-shop laws are irreconcilable with basic First Amendment principles and subsequent decisions and thus likely to be overruled. The motion therefore asks the Court to promptly deny today’s request (as a lower federal court must) but to do so without argument so that the plaintiffs can obtain prompt relief from the appellate courts, and ultimately the Supreme Court.

“Forcing educators to financially support causes that run contrary to their political and policy beliefs is an ongoing violation of the First Amendment and irreparably harms our clients basic constitutional rights,” said Terence J. Pell, President of CIR. “Today’s motion asks the court to move as quickly the law permits to facilitate relief.”

As a condition of public employment, the State of California requires every public school teacher, including non-union members, to pay several hundred dollars in fees each year for “chargeable” expenses that ostensibly are related to the teacher unions’ collective-bargaining efforts.

Even for “non-chargeable” union expenses related to lobbying and political activities outside of the collective-bargaining process, non-union teachers who do not wish to contribute must go through an annual “opt out” process to avoid automatically forfeiting their First Amendment rights.

Both provisions violate the fundamental free speech principle that the state may not coerce individuals to support organizations and express views with which they fundamentally disagree. As the Supreme Court noted last year in Knox v. Serv. Employees Int’l Union, Local 1000, 132 S. Ct. 2277, 2291(2012), state closed-shop laws may “cross the limit of what the First Amendment can tolerate.” Writing for the Supreme Court, Justice Samuel Alito warned:

      “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.”

Knox v. Serv. Emps.Int’l Union, Local 1000

    , 132 S. Ct. 2277, 2289 (2012).

Compelling the payment of union fees by non-members amounts to coerced support for union positions taken in collective bargaining such as increased expenditures for public education, complex disciplinary procedures, and teacher evaluation policies. These and other contractual provisions require negotiating with public officials over education policies that drain the public treasury and determine fundamental components of educational policy. Individual teachers cannot be compelled by the state to support the inherently political positions taken as part of collective bargaining.

The “opt-out” procedure imposes an additional unconstitutional burden on the free speech rights of teachers because it presumes that teachers support union lobbying unless they say otherwise. The state may not statutorily withhold the First Amendment rights of individual teachers unless and until an individual affirmatively acts to re-assert them.


About The Center for Individual Rights: The Center for Individual Rights is a non-profit public interest firm that specializes in civil rights, free speech, and other cases affecting individual rights. For more information visit CIR’s web site at

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