By R. Claire Friend
There has been a great deal of public attention on the problem of bullying in our public schools. Issues such as possible causes as well as appropriate administrative and legal remedies have been hotly debated across the country by educators, parents and politicians with varying responses.
The focus heretofore has been limited to students. This narrow perspective misses the most egregious culprits: union bullies. They are the focus of this article.
Teachers are compelled as a condition of employment to join the teachers’ unions and pay an annual membership assessment of about one thousand dollars. The monies are used to fund collective bargaining, liability insurance and political causes and candidates that reinforce the union’s power and influence.
In California, these have amounted to massive sums to defeat ballot initiatives inimical to the teachers’ union’s stranglehold on education. In general elections, the contributions have funded the campaigns of strongly liberal Democrat candidates as well as abortion rights and gay marriage. This liberal bias is not reflective of the union membership which tends to be conservative, according to a Gallup Poll.
Most teachers enter the profession because of a devotion to the education of young minds. They have the best interests of students as their foremost priority. Unions, in contrast, operate out of self-interest. Their top priority is the maintenance of union power, not the welfare of the teachers or students.
Unions strongly oppose any threats to that power such as ballot initiatives in support of school vouchers, charter schools, opportunity scholarships or Education Savings Accounts and will marshal vast sums of money to quash them. Although all of this was funded by forced union dues, teachers who dare to speak out against the union’s political positions are subject to intimidation, so most remain silent.
The California Teachers Union spent $32Million to defeat Proposition 75, the measure which would have required members to consent to their dues being used for political purposes. Of the $50Million unions used to defeat Proposition 32, more than $20Million came from the annual dues paid to the CTA by its 325,000 members.
It is the forced support of radical organizations such as ACORN, People for the American Way, Media Matters, Planned Parenthood and the ACLU which support abortion and gay marriage and beliefs that prompted Rebecca Friedrichs, a 27-year veteran elementary school teacher in Orange County, and nine colleagues to file a lawsuit against the CTA and its parent, the 3.5 million-member National Education Association for violating their rights of free speech and free association.
The lawsuit is currently before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, having been punted by Judge Josephine Staton in a lower court in Santa Ana. Friedrichs is hopeful that the case will be forwarded to the United States Supreme Court later this year where it may get a favorable ruling.
The legal arguments have interesting precedents. In most organizations, membership is on a voluntary basis. In unions, that is not the case. Tremendous pressure is applied to employees to become members. The level of intimidation and censure becomes difficult to resist.
Public employees in the federal were barred from organizing prior to an executive order by President John F. Kennedy. In California, it was Ronald Reagan who granted that right to state employees and Jerry Brown, to teachers.
Non-members are required to pay union dues because they benefit from the unions’ collective bargaining efforts. This was clarified in a 1977 ruling by the Supreme Court, Abood v. Detroit Board of Education that precludes the funds being used for ideological or political purposes. This flies in the face of reality. The National Education Association is the largest single contributor to the Democrat party, its state and federal candidates and its causes.
The July 2014 Supreme Court ruling in Harris v. Quinn opened the door to the merit of the Friedrichs et al. complaint. They ruled that it was unconstitutional to require non-union Illinois home health care workers to pay union dues.
Justice Samuel Alito added that “no person in the country may be compelled to subsidize speech by a third party that he or she does not wish to support.” His implicit meaning that public employee unions are inherently political organizations suggests that SCOTUS will look favorably on the ten complainants.
There is now a zero tolerance policy toward bullying in public schools. That should be extended to the biggest bully of all. We wish the diminutive Mrs. Friedrichs well in her lawsuit against the union colossus.
R. Claire Friend is a Lincoln Club member. As with all blog posts on this site, the views expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Club.