LOS ANGELES (AP) — A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit claiming that California’s teachers are unfairly penalized or deprived of their free speech rights if they do not support the political activities of their labor unions.
U.S. District Judge Stephen Wilson ruled in an order made public on Wednesday that lawyers for the four teachers who brought the lawsuit failed to show that state law influenced the unions’ membership policies, a necessary pre-condition for a successful First Amendment claim.
The teachers had alleged that the unions force members to subsidize positions and candidates they may not support by denying full benefits such as disability insurance and legal representation to those who choose to withhold the portion of their dues that go to political causes.
In agreeing to dismiss the case, Wilson concluded that those policies derived not from California labor laws but the internal workings of the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers and their state affiliates.
“It appears that plaintiffs’ ultimate grievance is the lack of state action in prohibiting bundled employment-related benefit and political expenditures as a part of membership dues,” the judge wrote.
California Teachers Association lawyer Jacob Rukeyser said Wilson’s finding was significant because the unions, as private entities, cannot be sued for a First Amendment violation absent evidence they were acting in collusion with the state.
“We are gratified by the judge’s very thorough analysis and conclusion, but we are not terribly surprised,” Rukeyser said. “Similar claims have been brought many times before, and they have all faired about as well as this one has.”
Lawyers for the teachers did not respond to an email seeking comment on whether they would appeal or accept Wilson’s invitation to amend their complaint.
(© Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)