When a teachers’ union collectively bargains, the benefits it derives at the table go to all teachers. Yet in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, the plaintiff contends that collective bargaining by its very nature is political speech because in a union shop the dues paid by teachers are used for purposes with which she disagrees (“Even Teachers Are No Fans of Forced Union Payments,” The Wall Street Journal, Jul. 16).
This is a novel argument that I do not understand. In California, individual teachers are allowed to request a refund of the portion of their union dues used to help elect candidates and lobby for legislation. But they still must pay the portion of their union dues that funds collective bargaining (the agency fee). Rebecca Friedrichs, the plaintiff, is not satisfied with what I consider to be a fair situation, nor are 38 percent of 700 public-school teachers surveyed.
If those teachers feel so strongly, they should simply refund the portion of their salaries and other benefits that are tainted by the process. Of course they won’t because they want things both ways. It’s like arguing that I will sue the federal government for the portion of my taxes used for purposes that I don’t like because doing so violates my right of free speech. It’s a ridiculous claim that should be thrown out of court. But these are dark days for unions in this country.
I’d like to remind Friedrichs and the 700 other teachers that they take for granted the rights teachers’ unions won for them through collective bargaining and through strikes. Boards of education did not give them up through the goodness of their hearts. It took great sacrifices on the part of former teachers working through their unions. I know because I participated in three strikes during the 28 years I taught in the Los Angeles Unified School District.
The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner’s Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.