Education Opinion

Teachers’ Unions Sued for Politicking

By Walt Gardner — May 13, 2015 1 min read
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The latest attack on teachers’ unions is a lawsuit filed by four California teachers backed by StudentsFirst claiming that their First Amendment rights are violated under the present rules (“Suit against teachers unions isn’t about free speech but silencing members,” Los Angeles Times, May 10). In Bain v. California Teachers Assn., et al, they argue that they shouldn’t have to pay union dues if part of the dues are used for political lobbying to promote positions they dislike.

I’m not a lawyer, but I don’t think they will prevail. The courts have already ruled that teachers can retain their jobs by paying only for the services the union provides in negotiating contracts. Since that is the case, how are the four teachers being harmed? They’re benefiting from the terms of the contract while avoiding supporting positions they disagree with.

I see the lawsuit as yet another attempt to undermine teachers’ unions. The irony is that these four teachers, like others who agree with their view, want it both ways. They have absolutely no problem accepting higher salaries and better teaching conditions that the union negotiated, but they don’t want to pay the full price for accepting them. If they genuinely believe in their stated opposition, they should refuse to accept the higher salaries they get. Of course, they won’t because the real issue is not what they claim.

I participated in three strikes during the 28 years that I taught in the Los Angeles Unified School District. There were teachers who refused to strike, citing ideological reasons. Yet they never handed back to the school district the salary raises that the strike provided. I call that hypocrisy. If they felt so strongly about striking, they never showed any guilt about accepting what their colleagues won.

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.