While a class-action lawsuit against the California Teachers Association (CTA) was pending, a U.S. District Court judge on October 6 refused to temporarily freeze funds the union seized from teachers statewide without due process in order to fight Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and several measures on the November 8 special-election ballot.
Since September 30, the CTA has been automatically collecting an additional $60 a year in dues from all 335,000 teachers and college professors statewide. Six teachers, represented by the National Right to Work Legal Foundation, filed a class-action lawsuit against the union in late August, citing a 1986 U.S. Supreme Court decision (Chicago Teachers Union v. Hudson) that says all union members must be notified of how their forced union dues are spent and be given a chance to prevent their money being spent for purposes other than collective bargaining.
Lead plaintiff Judy Liegmann, a fifth-grade teacher from Sunnyvale, said she found out about the three-year increase in late June from the CTA representative at her school. The union never formally notified her or told her of her constitutionally guaranteed options.
“Assessing dues for political purposes without asking permission [from members] ahead of time is very strange,” Liegmann said. “That’s money that has to do with our convictions. The union has done nothing to let teachers know they voted in an arbitrary way to dip into every teacher’s paycheck to fight a political battle whether the teachers liked it or not.”
Money Already Spent
In a sworn statement, CTA accountant Carlos Moreno revealed September 30 that the CTA already has spent on political activities the $60 million that will be raised by the forced dues increase. At press time, the union was seeking an additional $40 million loan from a bank.
While the U.S Supreme Court precedent boded well for the class-action lawsuit, Justin Hakes, a spokesman for the National Right to Work Legal Foundation, said the October 6 ruling violated teachers’ consciences.
“The whole point of [seeking to freeze the funds] was that once the election is over, the money’s been spent, and you can’t undo the results of the election,” he said. “Once someone’s conscience has been violated, you can’t undo that.”
The CTA did not return calls seeking comment.
Karla Dial ([email protected]) is managing editor of School Reform News.
For more information …
Streaming video of the September 22 news conference announcing the class-action lawsuit, during which union members tried to drown out the plaintiffs, is available online at http://www.nrtw.org/california/video_wmv.wvx (for Windows Media) or http://www.nrtw.org/california/video/ctanews.mov (for Apple Quicktime).
PolicyBot™, The Heartland Institute’s free online research database, offers additional research and commentary on the politics of teacher unions. Point your Web browser to http://www.heartland.org, click on the PolicyBot™ button, and choose the topic/subtopic combination Education/Teacher Unions.