Imagine being told you have a choice: Write a check for $450 to an organization you don’t support, or lose your job. For tens of thousands of teachers across Pennsylvania this ultimatum is reality. Every year, teachers across Pennsylvania are forced to fund the government teachers’ union just to escape a pink slip.
On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral argument in a landmark case that could free these teachers—and thousands more public employees across the state and nation—from compulsory union support.
The case, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, challenges the requirement that public sector employees who are not union members financially support the union via “fair share” fees. The union claims these fees are for collective bargaining, but as The Fairness Center’s assistant general counsel Karin Sweigart, notes:
Unions regularly use these fees to influence how public money is spent—an inherently political activity. Every dollar devoted to funding troubled public pensions, excessive administrative overhead, or other misplaced union priorities is a dollar that could have been used for school supplies, social services, or countless other public priorities.
Sweigart, who addressed a crowd gathered outside the Supreme Court yesterday, added that teachers are simply asking the Court for something most Americans take for granted: “freedom from being forced to support someone else’s political agenda as a condition of employment.”
In Pennsylvania alone, teachers in approximately 70 percent of school districts must pay the teachers’ union or lose their job—whether or not they are members. For a full-time teacher who opts out of union membership, the “fair share” fee totals $448 for 2015-16. That’s nearly $450 just to stay employed.
No American should be forced to fund a private organization simply to keep their job. It’s time to restore true freedom to teachers and all public employees.