OC Teacher Responds to Questions on Friedrichs

I would like to hear your thoughts on the case before the Supreme Court regarding teachers’ right to collect union fees from teachers who do not agree with or wish to be part of the union.  I believe the case was brought by Orange County teachers.  Do you agree with the principal that they say they should not have to pay if they do not want to join?

I am noticing more and more in recent years that people in the different political parties appear more like fans for rival college teams and the cheering and jeering is getting out of hand.  When one case goes before the Supreme Court and people do not agree with it, they ‘Boo’ the judges and say call the system corrupt.  When another case goes against the other ‘side,’ the fans eagerly await a win.

As I understand the current case before the Supreme Court in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, teachers claim that when they are required to pay dues to the union it violates their First Amendment rights.  There is a precedent from 1977 in the case Abood v. Detroit Board of Education that clearly states it is not a violation of First Amendment rights to collect union fees from non-members because those non-members were still benefitting from the better working conditions and higher wages negotiated by the union for all of the teachers. The fees are collected only to cover the cost of collective organization.  All teachers get to choose whether or not they are members of the union, and many do not choose to be union members.  There is also an exemption where teachers can refuse to have any of their contributions go to political campaigns.

When these teachers that are before the court now say they do not want to pay union fees, then should they benefit from the raises and working conditions that are negotiated through the union? Perhaps they would argue they would prefer lower wages rather than paying union fees.

People have knee-jerk reactions when they hear the term, “union.”  I know that many people working together, listening to one another, and even disagreeing with one another gives more validity to any movement that takes place with those members.  Unions make this possible.  End results do not always favor a side, but all sides are heard, evaluated, explained, and accepted because the union works with and for the people it represents.

I think there is a high likelihood that the case may threaten unions, particularly teacher unions.  I think that was the point. The generous funding for the movement is clearly from a team with strong, vocal fans.  If teacher unions don’t continue, I think we will be paid less because it will be easier to impose far less desirable contracts on teachers.  Right now, my union is involved in negotiations with my district because each side thinks there is a different amount of money available for salaries.  This is what happens in negotiations.  All money is revealed, accounted for, evaluated by all sides.  The process is clear and above board.  Teachers are heard because they must be heard.  If unions are dismantled, it will be easier to give us less.  It is sad that the power of collective bargaining is on the table, but we will all have to wait to hear which side erupts into cheers.

This column first appeared in the OC Register on February 1, 2016 http://www.ocregister.com/articles/union-702294-teachers-case.html

Contact Carol Veravanich at goasktheteacher@yahoo.com