14,000 Professors Join Statewide Forced Unionism Challenge
Sacramento, Calif. – Marking another step forward in the Foundation’s efforts to stem the tide of compulsory unionism abuse in California, the United States District Court has allowed 14,000 California State University (CSU) professors to challenge more than $8.5 million in forced dues seized from their paychecks under a new compulsory unionism law.
The law forces all professors to pay union dues unless they are members of state “approved” religions.
National Right to Work Foundation attorneys filed the class-action suit earlier this year against the California Faculty Association (CFA) labor union on behalf of Dr. Charles Baird (Professor of Economics at CSU Hayward), Dr. Edward Erler (Professor of Political Science at CSU San Bernardino), and Dr. Allen Appell (Professor of Marketing at San Francisco State University).
“We must act quickly to counteract Big Labor’s all-out assault in California,” said Reed Larson, president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. “Union-puppet Governor Gray Davis must be stopped before he hands total control of California over to the union bosses.”
Pushed through to its passage by union lobbyists, California’s faculty forced dues law requires that the 14,000 non-union professors must either quit their teaching jobs or pay about $600 annually to a union whose agenda they do not support.
Government passes judgment on religious views
In the lawsuit, Foundation attorneys charge that the California law’s so-called “religious objector” language is unconstitutional, as it thumbs its nose at employee rights and the U.S. Supreme Court.
Under the compulsory unionism law, state and union officials have been handed the power to pass judgment on the acceptability of religious beliefs of CSU employees who file religious objections to paying forced union dues. According to the law, university employees cannot object on religious grounds to paying forced union dues unless they belong to a state-approved “bona fide religion, body, or sect,” that maintains an “historically conscientious objection” to forced unionism. Only a relatively few religious bodies meet this particular standard of prescribed teachings.
That violates freedom of association protected by the First Amendment by forcing individuals who are not members of these certain approved religions to pay forced union dues, even though they may hold conscientious views similar to those of members of the “approved” faiths.
“This draconian law gives state bureaucrats and union fatcats the Stalin-like authority to punish people of faith,” said Larson.
Both Baird and Appell filed religious objections that were denied. Union lawyers tried to convince the court that the professors’ claims were not typical of the entire class of 14,000. The court shot down that bogus union argument by ruling, “If the statute is facially unconstitutional to one plaintiff, it is unconstitutional to all.”
Foundation attorneys attack law as unconstitutional
California’s forced unionism law is also unconstitutional because it discriminates against non-union higher education employees and violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. While forcing the professors – through legislative fiat and without even a vote or negotiation – to pay dues to an unwanted labor union, the new law also forces them to foot the bill for a statewide election to rescind the forced-dues requirement. No other state employees are required to overcome this additional burden.
The law also violates the First Amendment rights of university employees, as established by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Foundation-won case of Lehnert v. Ferris Faculty Association, by authorizing union officials to seize dues for lobbying activities. In Lehnert, the Court ruled unequivocally that the “State constitutionally may not compel its employees to subsidize legislative lobbying.”
Class actions give more bang for buck
This is the fourth time this year that federal courts in California have granted requests by Foundation attorneys to allow state employees to join lawsuits against Big Labor’s power grab in the state. In Friedman v. CSEA, the court allowed 10,000 CSU employees to challenge more than $4 million in forced dues under the compulsory unionism law. In Murray v. AFSCME Local 2620, a federal court allowed 1,500 state health and social service employees to challenge a union for illegally seizing forced union dues for political purposes. And in Cummings v. California State Employees Association (CSEA) the court allowed 30,000 state employees to join a lawsuit against the Davis Administration and the CSEA union for illegally forcing workers to pay union fees as a condition of keeping their state jobs.
Each of these high-profile class-action suits is now heading toward trial and Foundation attorneys also plan to file additional class-action lawsuits, as necessary, on behalf of California state employees.
“As long as Big Labor continues its wholesale assault on the rights of California state employees, the Foundation will be there fighting them tooth and nail to ensure that justice is done,” concluded Larson.