Teacher sues LA union over ‘defund the police’ stance

Teacher sues Los Angeles union over ‘defund the police’ stance

On March 16, a Los Angeles teacher filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California against his former union over its support for removing school police officers.

Parties to the suit

The plaintiff is Los Angeles public school teacher Glenn Laird. Attorneys from the Freedom Foundation, which says its mission is “to advance individual liberty, free enterprise, and limited, accountable government,” represent the plaintiff. 

The defendants are United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), the Los Angeles Unified School District, and the attorney general of California. 

What is at issue

According to Laird’s complaint, UTLA “joined a public campaign to ‘defund the police’ and remove officers from campus,” a stance he morally opposed. Laird’s attorneys said he had “witnessed students strangled, stabbed, and even shot to death,” and that “[i]n many cases, the ready presence of campus police officers was the difference between life and death.” After one incident in which a student was killed, Laird “fiercely supported keeping a continued police presence on campus to be able to deal with threats to student safety on a moment’s notice.”

A June 2020 statement from the UTLA Board of Directors said: 

As the Board of Directors of UTLA, an ethnically and racially diverse body, we believe that we do not need armed police roaming our halls, we need counselors who are provided with resources, nurses with sufficient medical supplies, and librarians with enough books. That is why we voted to call for the elimination of the LAUSD school police budget and redirect resources to student needs, with a particular focus on the needs of Black students.

Laird, who had been a member of the union since 1983, attempted to resign his membership and end his dues authorization starting in June 2020. UTLA refused to end his membership until December 2020, during the union’s opt-out period, and continued collecting dues through January 2021. In February 2018, UTLA modified its authorization agreement to implement an opt-out window during which members could revoke deduction authorization. However, Laird’s attorneys argue that because he struck out the relevant portion of his authorization agreement, which UTLA accepted in 2018, the opt-out period did not apply to him. 

Laird’s attorneys argue that the union violated his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights and ask the court for declaratory judgment, injunctive relief, and damages.   

Reactions to the suit

Freedom Foundation CEO Aaron Withe said, “We don’t believe the ‘escape window’ would be constitutional under any circumstances. … But it’s even more unenforceable if the worker clearly did not agree to be bound by it in the first place.”

UTLA officials have not commented publicly on the lawsuit.

What comes next? 

The case is currently assigned to Judge Fernando Aenlle-Rocha, a Donald Trump appointee. No hearings have been scheduled yet. The case name and number are Glenn Laird v. United Teachers Los Angeles et al., 2:21-cv-02313.   

What we’re reading

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state

We are currently tracking 84 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. 

Number of relevant bills by current legislative status

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

Recent legislative actions

Below is a complete list of relevant legislative actions taken since our last issue. 

  • Arizona SB1268: This bill would establish annual disclosure requirements for public-sector unions.
    • Republican sponsorship. 
    • House Commerce Committee reported favorably March 23.  
  • Arkansas SB341: This bill would prohibit collective bargaining on the part of public-sector employees.
    • Republican sponsorship. 
    • House passed amended bill, transmitted back to the Senate and re-referred to Senate Public Health, Welfare, and Labor Committee March 22.    
  • Florida S1014: This bill would require that unions certified as bargaining agents for educational support employees include certain information in registration renewal applications. The bill would also require such unions whose full dues-paying membership is less than 50 percent to petition the state for recertification. 
    • Republican sponsorship. 
    • Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee substitute bill read for the first time March 23. 
  • Illinois HB2521: This bill would allow electronic signatures on petitions submitted for selecting an exclusive bargaining representative. It would allow certification elections to be conducted electronically. It would also prohibit an employer from promising or taking action against an employee for participating in a strike.
    • Democratic sponsorship. 
    • House Labor and Commerce Committee hearing March 26. 
  • Illinois HB3891: This bill would establish that police union contracts no longer supersede state law.
    • Democratic sponsorship. 
    • House Labor and Commerce Committee hearing March 26. 
  • Illinois HB3892: This bill would limit peace officer contract negotiations to the subject of wages only.
    • Democratic sponsorship. 
    • House Labor and Commerce Committee hearing March 26. 
  • Maine LD52: This bill would allow educational policies related to preparation and planning time and transfer of teachers to be subjects of collective bargaining negotiations.
    • Democratic sponsorship. 
    • Education and Cultural Affairs Committee hearing scheduled for March 29.  
  • Maine LD97: This bill would bar public-sector and private-sector employers from requiring employees to join or pay dues to a union as a condition of employment.
    • Republican sponsorship. 
    • Labor and Housing Committee hearing March 24.  
  • Maryland SB138: This bill would extend collective bargaining rights to employees of the Baltimore County Public Library.  
    • Democratic sponsorship. 
    • Second reading passed with amendments March 24. 
  • Maryland SB746: This bill would establish collective bargaining rights for certain community college employees.
    • Democratic sponsorship. 
    • Senate passed March 19, referred to House Appropriations Committee March 20.  
  • Maryland SB9: This bill would make revisions to the collective bargaining process for employees of the University System of Maryland.
    • Democratic sponsorship. 
    • Senate passed March 18, House Appropriations Committee hearing scheduled for April 1.  
  • New Hampshire SB61: This bill would prohibit collective bargaining agreements that require employees to join a labor union.
    • Republican sponsorship. 
    • House Labor, Industrial and Rehabilitative Services Committee hearing March 25. Executive session scheduled for March 30.   
  • Oklahoma SB634: This bill would require annual authorizations for payroll dues deductions for school employees.
    • Republican sponsorship. 
    • Second reading in the House March 22, referred to Rules Committee.  
  • Oregon HB3029: This bill would require the Employment Relations Board to develop procedures for authorizations designating bargaining unit representatives.
    • Democratic sponsorship. 
    • House Business and Labor Committee work session scheduled for April 5. 
  • Oregon SB580: This bill would amend the law’s definition of “employment relations” to include class size and caseload limits as mandatory collective bargaining subjects for school districts.
    • Democratic sponsorship. 
    • Senate Education Committee work session scheduled for March 31.   
  • Tennessee HJR0072: A constitutional amendment that would bar any person, corporation, or governmental entity from denying employment due to an individual’s affiliation status with a union or other employee organization.
    • Republican sponsorship. 
    • House Finance, Ways, and Means Subcommittee hearing March 24. 
  • Washington SB5133: This bill amends the definition of a “confidential employee” for the purposes of collective bargaining.
    • Democratic sponsorship. 
    • House Appropriations Committee hearing scheduled for March 30.