Lawsuit could end compulsory union dues
Since Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker required a majority of members to vote each year to certify public employee unions as their representatives, 13 percent of his state's teacher and public employee unions have been decertified. Given a choice, it seems public employees don't necessarily support union policies.
But such unions continue to hold the upper hand in 26 other states where laws guarantee them millions in tax-free revenue by requiring public employees to pay as much as $1,000 annually in union fees as a condition of employment.
A lawsuit brought by the Center for Individual Rights in April may change all this.
Filed on behalf of 10 California teachers and the Christian Educators Association International, the lawsuit claims such “agency shop laws” violate the First Amendment by forcing teachers to pay annual union fees to cover the costs of collective bargaining, even when they are not members and disagree strongly with union negotiating positions.
If the lawsuit makes its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which seems likely, the justices could, with a single decision, give public employees in all states the constitutional right to decide for themselves whether to support a union.
The lawsuit does not challenge collective bargaining or undermine unions' legal authority to negotiate on behalf of all employees. But it does attack use of compulsory union dues to stifle disagreement and coerce employee support for union leaders' controversial positions.
If successful, it will force union officials to compete for membership like any other professional organization — by promoting policies that employees actually support.
Although teachers can opt out of paying the portion of union fees that goes directly toward political activities, the California Teachers Association still brings in more than $192 million a year tax-free, which union officials use to influence policy in a range of areas, some having little to do with education. All teachers are forced to support the union's agenda, whether they agree with it or not.
Judges have said those who benefit from an organizational “megaphone” should pay dues to support that megaphone. But union officials' assumption that teachers share their monolithic set of interests is false.
Unions can pursue as partisan and one-sided an agenda as they want. But the First Amendment requires that teachers be free to decide for themselves whether to support these efforts.
Steve Forbes is chairman of Forbes Media Inc. and editor-in-chief of Forbes magazine.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Reagan shooter Hinckley closer to permanent freedom
- Crosby says Edmonton would be good spot for prospective top pick McDavid
- Fights reported, shots fired outside Monroeville Mall restaurant
- Crosby’s 2 goals lift Penguins past Rangers, even series
- Sutter steps up for Penguins in series-tying victory
- Steelers won’t be backed into a corner at NFL Draft
- Rangers’ Miller matures into productive player
- Starkey: Taylor’s type fading away
- Use of multiple contractors could leave oil, gas operators open to hackers
- Penguins notebook: Johnston says Perron needs to shoot
- Penguins’ Martin a marked man in series with Rangers