LAUSD teachers union dues targeted in class-action lawsuit

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Just as the United Teachers Los Angeles union celebrates a victory at the bargaining table, the massive organization is slapped with a potentially debilitating federal class action lawsuit.

It's about union dues. Teacher Irene Seager said for what she gets from UTLA, she doesn't want to pay them.

The suit, filed by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, claims no teacher should have to pay and that now individuals have more rights to decline.

"It means that all public sector employees now have a right to choose whether they want to have a union," attorney Bill Messenger said.

He argued the underlying case before the U.S. Supreme Court. The plaintiffs won in Janus vs AFSCME on First Amendment grounds.

"There are certainly those who would call it union busting. There are others who would say it is a question of civil rights," said Thomas Lenz, labor lawyer and USC law lecturer.

According the UTLA website, the fees for full members in 2017 was $988.

The lawsuit targets the UTLA dues payment authorization form. The signer agrees that "everyone represented by our union should pay their fair share."

There is a 30-day window for a teacher to opt out.

The lawsuit asserts that members should be able get out any day. More importantly, that there should be specific language that tells the member that there are personal freedom of speech implications.

"By signing this document and agreeing to dues deduction they are agreeing to waive that First Amendment right," Messenger said.

Unions have already been pushing for legal protection in the state legislature, arguing that unions pay a vital role for public employees.

In California, there is recently passed legislation to protect the collective bargaining process.

"Sacramento does see value in union representation and they see a different vision of the workplace," Lenz said.

UTLA has not had a chance to review the suit, which was in the process of being served Wednesday.
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