The First Amendment protects all Americans from being compelled to support political speech or causes. In California, thousands of teachers face serious consequences for exercising this right to free speech—including the loss of important employment-related benefits and the ability to have their voices heard in employment-related matters.
Every year, California teachers pay up to $1,500 in dues to their local, state, and national unions. Those dues are broken up into two categories:
- The first category, called “chargeable” fees, is intended to cover the cost of unions’ collective bargaining activities on teachers’ behalf. California teachers are required to pay these dues no matter what—even if they are not union members.
- The second category, called “non-chargeable” fees, is intended to cover the cost of unions’ political or ideological expenditures. It includes donations to political candidates and ballot measures, as well as lobbying activities.
Teachers who don’t wish to support these political activities can avoid paying the second category of fees. But to do so, they must opt out of their unions entirely and become nonmembers. As a result, they lose important employment benefits, including maternity leave benefits, disability pay, legal representation, and voting rights. They lose these benefits even though unions are required to fight for all teachers equally!
This puts California teachers in an untenable position—they must either financially support political speech against their wishes or lose important employment-related benefits. Punishing the exercise of First Amendment rights in this manner violates the U.S. Constitution.
Bain v. CTA intends to fix this injustice and make certain that teachers enjoy all of their employment benefits without sacrificing their First Amendment rights.