Terrence Pell, President of the Center for Individual Rights, corrects some of the falsehoods union bosses have been spreading about the Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association case currently before the Supreme Court. His letter appears in the Orange County Register.
Re: “Another corporate attack on workers” [Opinion, Nov. 13] and “Muir tells other side in Friedrichs case” [Letters, Nov. 18]: I am writing to correct the erroneous claim made by Jennifer Muir and Susan Mercer about Friedrichs v. CTA – the case now before the Supreme Court that the Center for Individual Rights is bringing on behalf of 10 California public school teachers to end compulsory union dues.
In an effort to rally support for forced dues, they say Ms. Friedrichs’ case is “backed” by “the Koch brothers and other corporate interests.” I guess they mean that people should oppose free speech for teachers because Charles or David Koch, or other unmentioned “corporate interests,” support it.
Free speech is a cornerstone of free society, never mind whose money pays for the lawsuits necessary to defend it. Lawsuits upholding the right of individuals to dissent from coerced speech benefit everyone including the unions, their members and especially individuals who publish editorials and letters in this paper.
Regardless of the flimsiness of their attack, neither the Kochs themselves, nor their foundations, support the Center for Individual Rights or the case we brought on behalf of Ms. Friedrichs and her co-plaintiffs.
If union supporters want to blame the Friedrichs case on the wealthy, though, they might start with the wealthy leadership of the teachers unions. Former NEA president Dennis Van Roekel made $541,632 in 2014, well into the top 1 percent of income in the United States. Then-Vice President Lily Eskelsen Garcia had total compensation of $345,728, and NEA Executive Director John Stocks made $412,398.
Almost 10 times the average teacher’s salary, this sort of lavish compensation paid to top union officials points to the lack of accountability created by the tens of millions in compulsory dues the unions raise each year, a lack of accountability that spills over into the positions the unions take during collective bargaining.
Instead of complaining about imagined contributions to pay for the Friedrichs case, union supporters ought to address the lack of accountability in the unions they otherwise defend. Though enforcing the First Amendment’s prohibition on compelled speech would do little for CIR’s donors, it would clearly help increase union accountability to teachers and other everyday workers.
Terence J. Pell
President, Center for Individual Rights