A federal judge in Los Angeles has dismissed a lawsuit that would have hindered the ability of teachers unions to raise money to engage in political activity.
The suit, Bain vs. California Teachers Association, was filed in April by four teachers with support from the group StudentsFirst and a legal team from Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, the Los Angeles Times reported. Both the group and law firm have been involved in other attempts to change the legal landscape involving teachers’ rights and union influence.
In this case, the teachers involved were fighting for the right to belong to their local union without their dues being used against their will for political causes, according to The Times. Teachers don’t have to belong to a union, but if they decide to, their dues will support union activities whether they agree with them or not.
If they opt out of union membership, teachers in California still must pay “agency fees” — an amount designated to cover the cost of union efforts on their behalf. These teachers also lose out on members-only benefits.
The plaintiffs argued that unions have been violating their free speech rights, according to The Times.
Judge Stephen V. Wilson acknowledged that “unions engage in significant political and ideological expenditures against the will of many of their members,” noting that the CTA spent more than $211 million for political purposes from 2000 through 2009, The Times reported.
But he concluded that the plaintiffs had failed to meet the legal standard of showing that “the state and the union are joint actors in an unconstitutional scheme.”
The court also noted: “Unions cannot use the force of law to require a teacher to contribute to political and ideological expenditures as a condition of employment.”
The ruling drew immediate praise from the leaders of the state’s two largest teachers unions — the California Teachers Association and the California Federation of Teachers. The defendants included the two largest teachers unions in the country and two union locals, including United Teachers Los Angeles. The suit also named the superintendents of the L.A. Unified, West Contra Costa Unified and Arcadia Unified school districts, according to The Times.
—City News Service
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