Capitol Alert

California union fees case spurring late-session talks at Capitol

Veteran Orange County teacher Rebecca Friedrichs has challenged the constitutionality of so-called “fair share” fees teachers pay in lieu of full union dues.
Veteran Orange County teacher Rebecca Friedrichs has challenged the constitutionality of so-called “fair share” fees teachers pay in lieu of full union dues. Associated Press file

Education unions want Gov. Jerry Brown to embrace a late-session measure they hope would shield them from possibly debilitating financial effects of a pending U.S. Supreme Court decision.

For years, the unions have openly fretted about a court case, brought by Orange County teacher Rebecca Friedrichs, challenging the constitutionality of so-called “fair share” fees teachers pay in lieu of full union dues. Union officials contend the fees are needed to cover contract negotiating costs for all teachers.

If the court rules that nonunion members cannot be compelled to pay the fees, unions fear a drop-off in union membership and a significant loss in funds. A decision is expected next year. The California Teachers Association, which is fighting the case, has characterized it as an attempt to incapacitate unions.

Up against the clock in the Legislature, the labor groups are pushing for a bill that could give unions some time – a half-hour – to meet with employees to voice the benefits of union participation. That, some believe, could prevent workers from fully withdrawing from their ranks if the court rules against fair share fees.

Brown’s office would not comment on the late jockeying. CTA spokeswoman Claudia Briggs said earlier this week that she was unaware of any attempts to advance the legislation. She did not return a message seeking comment on Friday.

Asked whether his group is involved in discussions, Dave Low, executive director at California School Employees Association, which represents nonfaculty staff members at K-12 schools, said he could neither confirm nor deny its participation.

On Friday, an opposing contingent sent a letter to lawmakers saying any legislation is premature.

The Association of California School Administrators, California Association of School Business Officials, California Special Districts Association, California State Association of Counties and others said the issue should be sorted out by the courts before reaching the Capitol.

“Further, any legislation enacted on this matter in advance of the court’s decision would inevitably have unintended consequences, including but not limited to the fiscal impact on affected agencies and associated impacts on California taxpayers,” the letter states.

“Further, we have fundamental concerns over such an important matter being considered during the last week of session, which will preclude any opportunity for meaningful public comment, input from the affected agencies and deliberation by the Legislature,” it added.

One draft circulating the Capitol hallways and email inboxes is nearly identical to a past bill covering In-Home Supportive Services caregivers. That measure, which was approved, requires that unions be allowed to make an orientation presentation of up to 30 minutes.

It came roughly two months after the U.S. Supreme Court decided that Illinois publicly paid home-support workers could rebuff union membership.

Christopher Cadelago: 916-326-5538, @ccadelago

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