Seven California teachers have filed a federal class-action lawsuit for return of fees previously paid to their union in the wake of the Supreme Court’s recent ruling that public sector unions can no longer compel non-members to pay dues.
“This lawsuit will enable teachers like me to recover the agency fees that we were wrongly forced to pay against our will,” said Scott Wilford, the plaintiff in the lawsuit, reports Education Week.
Wilford joins fellow plaintiff Rebecca Friedrichs once again in the new lawsuit. The two were also plaintiffs in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, in which they claimed a First Amendment right to withhold financial support from a union whose positions they did not share. The teachers argued they could not assert their right through the union because there is no accountability in the relationship between the union – the collective-bargaining agent – and the individuals it was authorized by law to represent.
The Supreme Court heard Friedrichs in late 2015, but Justice Antonin Scalia died unexpectedly in February 2016, leaving the high court to dismiss the case by a 4-4 tie vote afterward, and allowing to stand the lower court’s ruling that the union’s agency fees were not unconstitutional.
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), condemned the new lawsuit, telling Education Week the lawsuit “should be understood for what it is—a bid to ensure workers must fend for themselves and not have the opportunity to live a better life.”
Education policy consultant Matt Frendewey, however, said the past union fees were “improperly collected.”
“This is about righting that wrong,” he said, and “making those teachers whole by recouping those fees.”