January 12, 2016 Print

Photo credit: Competitive Enterprise Institute

Freedom of association is a fundamental cornerstone of the ideas of liberty, but mandatory union fees for school teachers have long held many of those teachers captive to an ideological system that they don’t support. The U.S. Supreme Court heard testimony on Jan. 11 in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association (CTA), a case brought by plaintiff Rebecca Friedrichs, several other teachers, and the Center for Individual Rights (CIR) that challenges the CTA’s authority to compel her to pay for representation she does not want and a political agenda with which she disagrees. More than 20 amicus briefs have been submitted in support of Friedrichs so far, including briefs filed by the Institute for Justice, the Cato Institute, the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, the Goldwater Institute, the Pacific Legal Foundation, the Pacific Research Institute, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the Freedom Foundation, the Atlantic Legal Foundation, and The Buckeye Institute.

Several other Atlas Network partners have signed on to a joint amicus brief of policy organizations who support Friedrichs in her case against the CTA. These include the Alaska Policy Forum, the Beacon Center of Tennessee, Center of the American Experiment, the Civitas Institute, the Commonwealth Foundation, the Freedom Foundation of Minnesota, the Idaho Freedom Foundation, the John Locke Foundation, the Kansas Policy Institute, the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs Inc., the Platte Institute for Economic Research, the Rio Grande Foundation, the Show-Me Institute, and the Washington Policy Center. Atlas Network partners the Competitive Enterprise Institute and American Enterprise Institute have also been active in writing about why the case is so crucial, and the State Policy Network organized a rally at the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C.

“Teachers’ unions, like other unions, spend a great deal of money engaging in explicitly political activity like lobbying legislators and supporting candidates,” wrote Inez Fletcher, director of the Education and Workforce Development Task Force for the American Legislative Exchange Council. “While the First Amendment’s protections against compelled speech already ensure non-members’ contributions cannot be used for these overtly political activities against their wishes (as registered by an opt-out), the plaintiffs in Friedrichs argue when the money for pay raises and pension contracts comes from the public pocket, even those union activities limited to job conditions and compensation are political in nature. … If Friedrichs and CIR prevail in the Supreme Court, teachers’ unions would still be able to exist but would be forbidden from forcing workers to contribute to the union as a condition of employment. If allowing teachers their freedom from compelled speech has the side effect of weakening the teachers’ unions’ stranglehold on education politics, so much the better for students, teachers and school choice.”