LA teacher files class action suit against union after strike — claims took dues anyway, despite opt-out

Jan 28, 2019 by

Is the United Teachers Los Angeles illegally deducting fees from teachers’ paychecks?

Was the recent week-long teachers strike bankrolled on money swindled from educators?

A Los Angeles Unified School District teacher filed a class action lawsuit against UTLA in federal court this week that aims to answer those questions in light of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last summer that found public employees are not required to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment, the Los Angeles Times reports.

For decades, teachers unions and other public sector unions have deducted “fair share” fees from employees who chose not to become members, and it’s typically about 80 percent of full dues. Unions allege nonmembers benefit from collective bargaining and the “fair share” fees simply cover those services, with no funds funneled to politics. The mandatory fees are written into virtually all union contracts.

But the Supreme Court ruled in Janus vs. AFSCME in June that public employees including teachers, police officers and others in unionized professions could not be forced to pay dues or fees to unions they don’t support.

The change prompted Porter Ranch Community School teacher Irene Seager to submit her resignation as a union member after the ruling, but the UTLA is using a self-created technicality to continue to siphon money from her paycheck and others, the Times reports.

“Ms. Seager’s case shows that union bosses are willing to trample on the First Amendment rights of the teachers they claim to represent to keep their forced-dues power,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation representing Seager.

The lawsuit acknowledges that Seager signed a dues authorization card on April 6, 2018, but after the Supreme Court ruling two months later, she repeatedly notified UTLA of her resignation and explicitly stated she no longer authorized the union to pull money from her paycheck, the Los Angeles Daily News reports.

The union responded that Seager missed an annual 30-day period in which educators can change their status, and continued to deduct dues. Both the UTLA and the Los Angeles Unified School District are named in the lawsuit because the school district taps employee paychecks on behalf of the union.

Seager’s lawsuit aims to kill the union opt-out time period and halt the union deductions from her paycheck. She also wants UTLA to repay the money it stole since she quit the union last summer, according to the Times.

“Despite what the union bosses say, workers’ constitutional rights cannot be limited to just 30 days out of the year,” Mix said.

The National Right to Work Foundation is also representing a math professor in Ventura County who is challenging his union’s time-period opt out provision. Seager’s lawsuit, filed Wednesday, comes as teachers head back to class following a week-long union strike for higher pay and increased staffing.

Beyond fundamental constitutional rights, the Seager lawsuit also raises serious questions about how the recent teachers strike was funded, as the class-action complaint implies many teachers were forced to support the UTLA against their will in the months leading up to the walkout.

UTLA leaders have not publicly addressed Seager’s lawsuit.

LAUSD, meanwhile, is attempting to stay out of the dispute.

“UITLA is the custodian of the documents relating to membership,” a LAUSD spokeswoman told the Daily News in an email. “The union tells us whether the employee is a member and should have the dues deducted. This dispute is between UTLA and its member.”

Source: LA teacher files class action suit against union after strike — claims took dues anyway, despite opt-out |

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