Foundation Attorneys Persuade Judge to Block Dues Collection
SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. -- Foundation attorneys have won a federal court injunction that halts the collection of all local compulsory union dues from several teachers in the San Francisco Bay Area. The ruling -- which gained nationwide media attention -- lays the groundwork for future victories against the National Education Association (NEA) and every other public-sector union.
In a dramatic ruling from the bench, Federal Judge Charles Legge enjoined six Bay Area school districts and California Teachers Association (CTA) union affiliates from collecting any compulsory union dues from six teachers until they receive audited financial disclosure from the union as required by Foundation-won Supreme Court precedents.
"This ruling reaffirms the principle that until union bosses disclose exactly how they spend teachers' compulsory dues, they can't collect one thin dime," said Reed Larson, President of the Foundation.
Teacher rights often ignored by union brass
According to the constitutional protections construed by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Foundation-won decisions of Abood v. Detroit Board of Education and Lehnert v. Ferris Faculty Association, the union may only collect compulsory dues that are proven to be spent on collective bargaining activity. Politics, lobbying, organizing, public relations, and other non-bargaining activities are explicitly non-chargeable to employees who have exercised their right to refrain from union membership.
"Teachers are entitled to an independent accounting of the union's books before their paychecks are raided by the political operatives of the CTA and its affiliates," said Larson.
CTA officials attempt to hide dues
While the NEA and statewide CTA provided audited disclosure to each of the teachers, CTA-affiliated local unions attempted to circumvent their constitutional requirements by refusing to produce properly audited disclosures.
"These union bosses blatantly refused to follow the law and open their books to prove they were not swiping money for politics," said Larson.
Local CTA bosses made up a rule out of thin air that smaller unions were "exempt" from the audit requirement. And without any explanation whatsoever, they claimed that they were entitled to charge for the same proportion of expenditures as the statewide affiliate did. This is a variant of the so-called ≥local presumption≤ ruse that numerous courts have already declared to be unconstitutional.
"The sham of this so-called 'local presumption' is but the latest smoke screen attempted by union bosses to hide the truth about their spending and activities like politics," said Larson. "By attempting to hide the expenditures of their local affiliates, the government union brass across America are stomping all over employee rights."
Resolved to end the abuse of these eight teachers and to set a precedent that could be expanded statewide, Foundation attorneys assisted the teachers, led by 20-year Right to Work activist Dianne Foster, in filing suit against the CTA and local school districts for cooperating with the union's illegal actions.
"This case is an attempt to hold the union accountable to provide proper disclosure," said Foster. "It was the next step in the long process to get unions to respect our constitutional rights."
After hearing Foundation attorneys' arguments, Judge Legge brought the hammer down on the union bosses' scam.
In his bench ruling, Judge Legge tossed out the union's "small-union exception" argument and ruled that the local union officials could not use the "local presumption" to escape their legal obligation of providing audits to teachers. The judge immediately enjoined six CTA affiliates from collecting any forced dues until and unless properly audited disclosure is produced for the teachers. (Two of the eight teachers had retired; thus an injunction was unnecessary in their cases.)
He further ruled that the eight school districts were also liable for the illegal activity because, as the teachers' employer, they are obligated to ensure that the teachers' constitutional rights are observed before withdrawing the dues from their paychecks.
Foundation plans to push case statewide, nationwide
"This is a ground-breaking ruling on behalf of teachers and all other public employees who refuse to be forced to pay for union boss politics," said Larson.
The watershed ruling in the Foster case creates a precedent which Foundation attorneys intend to invoke in school districts and government workplaces across California and ultimately across America.