Rebecca Friedrichs: Challenging Compulsory Union Dues and Standing Up for Freedom
In March 2015, PRI filed an amicus brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to hear Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association (CTA) -a major case challenging compulsory union dues that nearly all California teachers are required to pay. The case, spearheaded by the Center for Individual Rights (CIR), was brought by Buena Park teacher Rebecca Friedrichs and other Orange County teachers who object to supporting the CTA. The suit claims state “agency shop” laws, which require public employees to pay union dues as a condition of employment, violate their rights to freedom of speech and association.
On June 30, the Court agreed to hear the case and PRI filed a second amicus brief on behalf of Friedrichs in September. A ruling against CTA could deal a serious blow to public sector unions across the country. California — and America — need more heroes like Rebecca Friedrichs. PRI is proud to support her case through our amicus briefs and media outreach as part of our ongoing commitment to improving education through reform, freedom, and innovation.
What inspired you to become a teacher?
I dreamed of becoming a teacher from the age of twelve. I had a few teachers who inspired me, and I wanted to inspire others and help other children to discover a love of lifelong learning.
When did you realize that your union wasn’t representing your interests and/or the interests of students?
Sadly, I first realized this during my student teaching experience. I was learning to teach from an exceptional master teacher, but next door to our classroom was a teacher who, in my opinion, was abusive to her students. I would witness every day as she would yell at the children, grab them by the arms, and yank them into line. The children were only six years old, and it was obvious that they were terrified of her. At twenty-two, I was afraid of her. When I asked what we could do about the situation, my master teacher sat me down and gave me a lesson on teachers’ unions and teacher tenure. She informed me that it was very difficult for districts to rid themselves of tenured teachers who were no longer effective in the classroom. I was shocked, and I knew from that day that I didn’t want to support any group that would allow such hurt to come to the very children I was employed to protect and educate.
Did you see any benefit to the quality of education as a result of the union’s efforts?
No. I’ve watched with disgust for 28 years as my union has fought all sorts of positive education reforms. They fight against parental choice in education, which places the heaviest burden on poor families who would like to escape failing, and often dangerous, public schools. My union uses forced teacher dues to defeat many common sense reforms like vouchers, education savings accounts, and adjustments to the tenure laws that would allow administrators to do what’s in the best interest of the children and the taxpayers. I’m not alone in these concerns. According to a 2011 Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll, nearly half of all Americans believe that unions have hurt the quality of public school education in the United States.
Click here to read the full interview with Rebecca Friedrichs in IMPACT.