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California teachers suing to end required union dues

The federal lawsuit filed by a group of California public school teachers last spring against the powerful California Teachers Association is making its way to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and could eventually be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court. The CTA has a membership of about 325,000 teachers and brings in close to $200,000 annually. The teachers are disputing what they say is the requirement that they join the union and pay dues of about $1,000 each year in order to work as a teacher. They are challenging this requirement as a violation of their free speech rights.

One key issue the teachers have is that their dues are not used just to advocate for improved teacher contracts, collective bargaining and workplace safety, but to fund political activities with which some teachers disagree. Of particular concern to some teachers are the union's activities to defeat school voucher programs. Those who support school vouchers don't want their dues being used to lobby against them.

Like 25 other states, California is a "closed shop" state, which means that as a condition of employment, teachers much belong to a union. According to the union, however, teachers can opt out of paying dues used for political activities. However, it's not that easy, according to the teachers involved in the suit. They say that opting out is a "difficult and intimidating process." They claim that they suffer harassment and risk "losing their liability insurance."

The CTA claims that those pursuing the lawsuit are trying "to weaken unions, and the workers they represent." No doubt, employment attorneys, unions and teachers in the other "closed shop" states will be watching as this case makes its way through the legal system.

Source:, "California schoolteachers' lawsuit over mandatory union dues moving forward" Claudia Cowan, Jan. 09, 2014

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