UTLA Union Hit with Class Action Lawsuit from Los Angeles Teacher to Halt Unconstitutional Forced Dues Policy

Union officials violate hundreds of teachers’ constitutional rights under the Supreme Court Janus decision through “window period” scheme

Los Angeles, CA (January 23, 2019) – With free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, a Los Angeles public school teacher is challenging the United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) union officials’ illegal “window period” scheme to forcibly seize union membership dues from her paycheck without her consent and in violation of her constitutional rights.

Plaintiff Irene Seager, a public school teacher at Porter Ranch Community School, filed the class action complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California against the UTLA, the Los Angeles Unified School District, and the Attorney General of California. 

Seager became a UTLA union member and signed a dues deduction authorization form in April 2018, when to keep her job she was required to choose between paying full union dues as a member or forced union fees as a nonmember. However, following the landmark U.S. Supreme Court Janus v. AFSCME ruling in June 2018 which made such payments for teachers and other public employees voluntary, she attempted to exercise her First Amendment rights by resigning her union membership and stopping dues payments.

In Janus, argued and won by Foundation staff attorneys, the Supreme Court ruled that it is unconstitutional to require government workers to pay any union dues and fees as a condition of employment. Additionally, the Court clarified that no union dues or fees can be taken from workers without their affirmative consent and knowing waiver of their First Amendment right not to financially support a labor union.

However, UTLA union officials never informed Seager of her First Amendment rights when she originally signed her dues deduction authorization, making it impossible for her to have knowingly waived those rights as required by Janus. Even after Seager resigned her union membership and made it clear in a letter sent to the union weeks after Janus that she does not consent to dues deductions, union officials continue seizing membership dues from her hard-earned wages.  Union officials claim that Seager can only cut off dues deductions during a union-created 30-day “window period” each year.

Seager’s class action lawsuit asks the court to strike down this unlawful “window period” scheme and order union officials to stop deducting unauthorized dues. Additionally, the lawsuit challenges a California state law which allows the union to enforce the restrictive “window period” policy.

Her complaint also seeks a refund of membership dues that were wrongfully taken from her and hundreds, if not thousands, of other teachers subjected to UTLA’s unconstitutional policy.

“Ms. Seager’s case shows that union bosses are willing to trample on the First Amendment rights of the teachers they claim to ‘represent’ to keep their forced-dues power,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Despite what union bosses say, workers’ constitutional rights cannot be limited to just 30 days out of the year. The Foundation remains vigilant to offer free legal aid to any teacher or other public sector worker who seeks to exercise their rights protected by the Supreme Court’s Janus decision.”

National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys are also providing free legal aid to a math professor with the nearby Ventura County Community School District, who is challenging a similar “window period” scheme enacted by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) to block him and his colleagues from exercising their Janus rights.

The Foundation also recently released a special legal notice informing Los Angeles teachers of their rights during the UTLA-ordered teacher strike.

Workers can request free legal aid at www.nrtw.org/free-legal-aid or by calling the Foundation toll-free at 1800-336-3600.

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The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is a nonprofit, charitable organization providing free legal aid to employees whose human or civil rights have been violated by compulsory unionism abuses.  The Foundation, which can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-336-3600, assists thousands of employees in more than 250 cases each year. Its web address is www.nrtw.org.