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Chaparral 2013-2014: 22.1 PQE

Professors for Quality Education (October 2013)

PQE: The Guild, Your Money and Our Trustee Election

by Jeanette Stirdivant

Guild Public Information Officer

As your Guild’s Public Information Officer I wanted to create a venue to keep us aware of legislation that impacts what we do here. My goal is to highlight one piece of current legislation or one lawsuit each month.

The following article, written by Gary Cohn, is excerpted from a larger article on Prop 32 and its impact on teacher unions. When I read this article I was reminded of the importance of having a well-funded Political Action Committee (PAC); a committee which has the financial resources necessary to elect Trustees who can make a difference. Glendale Community College will have a Board of Trustee election in 2015 when two trustees will be elected. As a Guild member you will have a choice in who we support in that election and in how we show our support.

Running trustee campaigns costs money and the Guild will want to give financial support to “our candidate(s).” Sign up NOW using this payroll deduction form and you will have made the first step in helping to elect forward-thinking, faculty supportive, and student-centered Trustees. No amount is too small (or too large for that matter!). But if you donate the equivalent of one cup of coffee or one coke on a monthly basis we can make our collective voices heard. I hope reading this article excerpt will encourage you want to donate, or to increase your donation, to our PAC as much as it did me.

Excerpted from: “Right to Work (For Scraps): New Litigation Aims to Take Union-Busting National ” by Gary Cohn. Published August 2, 2013

Last November unions won a resounding victory when voters defeated Proposition 32, a ballot measure that would have crippled labor’s political influence in California, partly by barring public-employee unions from using payroll-deducted funds for political purposes. The initiative, which enjoyed a huge lead in early opinion polls, was heavily funded by wealthy conservatives and far-right groups. Union leaders were overjoyed by its defeat.

The celebration hasn’t been long lived. In a little-noticed move in April, a conservative legal organization that has pushed to overturn the 1964 Voting Rights Act filed a lawsuit in federal court in Santa Ana that could accomplish in the courts what Prop. 32 couldn’t at the ballot box. The players behind the suit may not be household names but the millionaires and private foundations covering their legal fees represent a familiar klatch of extreme libertarians who, since the 1980s, have been attempting to move the country in a hard-right direction.

The main plaintiff, the Christian Educators Association International (CEAI), firmly opposes reproductive rights and marriage equality – two of the same movements opposed by Prop. 32′s various backers. CEAI also supports school voucher programs and the teaching of Creationism – also causes championed by some of Prop. 32′s supporters, who saw unions as an obstacle to imposing their political will on California when it came to these and other issues.

The lawsuit, known as Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, challenges the constitutionality of laws that allow teachers’ unions to collect fees from teachers who don’t want to be members. The lawsuit also seeks to outlaw an automatic payroll deduction process, under which teachers who don’t want a portion of their fees to go for political activities must “opt out” of funding those activities. It claims that California’s “agency shop” law violates the First Amendment by compelling public school teachers to pay fees to teachers unions involved in political activities.

The lawsuit’s supporters agree.

“If this lawsuit is successful, it conceivably could make California into a right to work state,” says Larry Sand, a retired middle school history teacher and president of the California Teachers Empowerment Network. “It goes beyond California – this case could be a huge deal. It would affect workers, union political spending and ultimately children because unions are the number-one impediment to education reform. This definitely could go further than Proposition 32.”

John Logan, director of the San Francisco State University’s labor studies program, says that given the current ease with which employees can opt out, “The purpose of the legal challenge is not to protect the rights of individual employees. The real purpose is to diminish the political voice of public-sector unions.”

If The Center for Individual Rights, lawsuit is successful, the relatively modest investment in backing the suit could accomplish what the $60.5 million effort to pass Prop. 32 could not – the erosion of public-sector unions as a political force. (Prop. 32′s opponents were forced to spend about $75 million to defeat that measure.)

Although marbled with phrases about Constitutional rights and personal choice, the CIR lawsuit is clearly about more than the First Amendment. Friedrichs v. CTA comes at a time when California’s Republican Party is shrinking into electoral irrelevance, while at the same time many corporations are pushing Congress to nullify the state’s pioneering laws regulating workplace safety, consumer protection and the environment.

“What this litigation is trying to do by judicial decree is what Prop. 32 and many other ballot initiatives have failed to do,” says Catherine Fisk, a professor at the University of California at Irvine School of Law and an expert in labor relations. “It’s essentially an end-run around legislative or ballot initiatives by trying to get courts to decide what the California legislature and people of California, through their initiative process, have refused to do.

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