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UTLA gearing up for SCOTUS Friederichs decision, whatever it is

Hayley Fox | July 21, 2015

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supreme courtNow that the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear Friedrichs vs. California Teachers Association, a 2013 case with huge implications for unions’ nationwide in their ability to collect dues, the Los Angeles teachers union, UTLA, is gearing up for whatever the justices decide.

A victory by the plaintiffs would reverse a decades-old precedent, Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, that requires non-union members to pay dues under a “fair share” rationale that non-members derive the same benefits as a members.

Friedrichs is challenging California’s largest teachers union on First Amendment grounds, arguing, in part, that mandatory union dues deny individual members the right of free speech through lobbying efforts and campaign contributions that don’t necessarily comport with the views of all union members.

But either way Friedrichs goes, UTLA will be prepared, said Jeff Good, the union’s Executive Director.

“There’s been a concentrated effort and an on-going effort to turn UTLA into an organizing union and an organizing culture,” he told LA School Report, pointing to the union’s mission to bolster a closer, “two-way relationship” with members of the community.

By actively working to improve representation for union members and to strengthen relationships with the community, Good said he hopes teachers would feel more invested in UTLA’s efforts, then join as a member.

In this scenario, he said, there would be fewer people in the “fair share” category, which means even if the Supreme Court rules against CTA, there would be less money lost in the fallout.

There’s a reason the “fair share” law has been in place since 1977, Good said, arguing that there should be no “free riders” when it comes to union support. By law, UTLA is obligated to represent non-members when it comes to matters of their employment, he said, so it’s only reasonable that those individuals contribute financially.

“Even if someone is not going to be a member, they’re going to benefit from those victories,” he said.

Good declined to say how much UTLA spends each year on political lobbying. According to the UTLA website, the largest portion of dues, 40.9 percent, goes toward state and local affiliate organizations that receive a fixed payment from the union. The second largest amount, 28.5 percent, goes toward member services and organizing — such as arbitration and professional development.

The website also says that UTLA’s dues have remained flat since 1970, an annual rate of $689.04, which makes them the lowest dues of any teachers union in the state.

The Friedrichs case, Good said, is funded by the “same type of millionaires and billionaires” who back the political figures that try to bust unions and create “right-to-work” states. The Supreme Court’s decision to hear the case is just “one more concentrated effort to cut off the knees of the working class in this country,” he said.

“I think that the Supreme Court made a mistake in revisiting this issue,” Good said. “This is about trying to destroy unions.”

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