“Teachers’ union leaders see me as a cash machine”: Thomas Few, left, with attorneys Bucher and Kelsey, and Illinois state social worker Mark Janus, at the U.S. Courthouse in Los Angeles.
LOS ANGELES – A federal judge on Dec. 17 will hear teachers union officials defend their efforts to force a Los Angeles Unified School District teacher to pay them a “service fee” in exchange for his job as a special-education instructor.
In a lawsuit filed Nov. 13, attorneys for Thomas Few as the court for a preliminary injunction to stop the United Teachers of Los Angeles and the school district from diverting the payments from Few’s paycheck
“The UTLA has not responded to our lawsuit, ignoring no fewer than four demands that they follow federal law and stop taking money out of Mr. Few’s pay,” said Mark Bucher, an attorney with California Policy Center, one of two organizations representing Few. “It appears the only way the union is going to stop taking money is to get a judge to order them to stop.”
Following the Supreme Court’s June 27 decision in the landmark labor case Janus v. AFSCME, Few asked UTLA and the Los Angeles Unified School District to stop withholding membership dues from his paycheck.
Union leaders told Few, a San Fernando Valley special-education teacher, that he could end his membership in the United Teachers of Los Angeles union. But as a nonmember, they wrote, he would still have to pay an annual “service fee” equivalent to his union membership dues.
In the suit they filed on his behalf, Few’s attorneys said that’s a clear attempt to circumvent the Supreme Court’s Janus decision. In that decision, the justices declared that state and local governments may not require government workers to pay a union in exchange for employment. Such requirements, the court said, violate workers’ First Amendment rights of free speech and voluntary association.
Few’s November 13 lawsuit names the United Teachers of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Unified School District as defendants.
“The Supreme Court has declared that government employees have a choice and a voice when it comes to union membership,” said Brian Kelsey, senior attorney for the Liberty Justice Center, which joined California Policy Center in filing the lawsuit. “Liberty Justice Center is determined to see that these rights are respected throughout the United States.”
The Liberty Justice Center represented Illinois state worker Mark Janus in Janus v. AFSCME.
“Union leaders repeat the mantra that they’re here to serve us, but they don’t care about me or my right to choose,” Few said. “I can tell you that teachers’ union leaders see me as a cash machine to fund their special interests. United Teachers of Los Angeles will not allow me to exercise my First Amendment rights because they do not want other teachers to be informed about their rights.”
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