Two Orange County, California teachers are among a group of ten educators across the state who have sued seeking an end to having to pay mandatory California state teachers’ union fees according to their attorney.
The teachers’ argument is that California’s current “agency shop” law violates their First Amendment freedom of expression rights by forcing them to pay $1,000 per year that end up supporting political causes with which they do not agree.
None of the ten teachers are union members. Despite this fact though, all of them are required to pay an amount equal to teacher union dues under a law also known as the “fair share” law. It is premised on the idea that because unions are required to represent all employees, even those not belonging to the union, that all teachers should bear the administrative cost of such representation.
The teachers, through their attorney, are arguing that a 2012 Supreme Court decision suggests that they should not be required to continue to pay. The teachers are trying to extend the logic of 2012’s Knox v. Service Employees International Union, in which a 5-4 Supreme Court majority held agency fees permissible, provided that unions offer an opt-out method.
It is not contested here that teachers in California are indeed afforded an opt-out method. The process though, according to the teacher’s legal counsel, is cumbersome and rarely utilized. Given that decision, how do the teachers hope to win this case? In the 2012 case, conservative justices on the court suggested that they are open to the argument that such fees are inherently unconstitutional. The teachers hope to be able to sway a majority of justices over to that line of thinking.
Currently though, the case is not at the Supreme Court level. It was filed in a federal district court here in California. The attorney believes that the case could end up on the Supreme Court’s docket as early as next year.
Gregory R. Branch, Esq. is an Orange County special education attorney. He represents families in disputes with school districts in Orange, Riverside, and Los Angeles Counties. If you are currently engaged in a special education dispute, please contact his office at (714) 856-1166 or be emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.