Federal judge hears challenge to payroll deductions for public-sector union dues

On Nov. 19, Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, heard oral arguments in Mendez v. California Teachers Association, a case involving payroll deductions for public-sector union dues.

What is at issue? The plaintiffs allege that their First Amendment rights were violated when their unions continued to deduct dues from their wages over their stated objections. The plaintiffs argue that this practice violates Janus v. AFSCME, a 2018 case in which the Supreme Court held that public-sector workers cannot be compelled to provide financial support to unions. The plaintiffs argue that unions must obtain informed consent before deducting dues from wages and refund any illegally obtained dues.

Who are the parties to the suit? The lead plaintiff is Bethany Mendez, a special education instructor. Six additional plaintiffs, all public-school teachers, later joined the suit. The plaintiffs are represented by San Francisco attorney Harmeet K. Dhillon and the Freedom Foundation, a nonprofit whose self-described mission is “to advance individual liberty, free enterprise, and limited, accountable government.” The defendants are the California Teachers Association, the National Education Association, the state of California, and the individual school districts for which each of the plaintiffs works.

  • The California Teachers Association (CTA) is an affiliate of the National Education Association. With its approximately 310,000 members, CTA is among the state’s largest public-sector unions.

What are the reactions?

  • Karin Sweigart, litigation counsel for the Freedom Foundation, said, “Janus protects the rights of public employees to decline union dues deduction. But it also makes clear that anytime someone signs up for dues deduction, they are waiving their First Amendment rights – and Constitutional rights cannot be waived knowingly.”
  • When the lawsuit was filed in March, Claudia Briggs, a representative for the California Teachers Association, said, “This is just another lawsuit from the Freedom Foundation to continue the attack on public education and public employees.”

What comes next? Rogers, who was appointed to the court by President Barack Obama (D), has not indicated when she expects to reach a verdict. The case name and number are Mendez v. California Teachers Association, 3:19-cv-01290.

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state

We are currently tracking 106 pieces of legislation dealing with public-sector employee union policy. On the map below, a darker shade of green indicates a greater number of relevant bills. Click here for a complete list of all the bills we’re tracking.

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Number of relevant bills by current legislative status

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Number of relevant bills by partisan status of sponsor(s)

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