California Teacher Sues Union Over Push to ‘Defund the Police’

March 20, 2021 Updated: March 20, 2021

A California teacher this week sued his local teachers union because of its push to slash funding to the police.

Glenn Laird, a longtime graphic design teacher at Eagle Rock High School, has been a member of the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) for almost 40 years.

But Laird took issue with how the union last year joined calls to defund the police, releasing a paper that said authorities “must shift” money from policing to education “and other essential needs such as housing and public health.”

After learning what his union had done, Laird resigned and sought to stop paying dues.

“I couldn’t in good conscience be a member and pay dues, knowing my money was supporting an anti-police agenda,” Laird said in a video statement.

Before signing and returning his membership application, Laird crossed out an “opt-out window” provision that restricted ending membership to a two-week period every year. That should have enabled him to leave the union and stop paying dues, but the union kept taking money from him, which is against the law, the lawsuit charges.

“UTLA told Mr. Laird that pursuant to the terms of his membership application, he was unable to immediately resign his membership, ignoring the deleted agreement to the window. The District and UTLA, empowered and authorized by state statutes and the [bargaining agreement], continued to confiscate Mr. Laird’s money without his affirmative consent until the inapplicable opt-out window period was reached,” it said.

The lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, asks the court to order the union to return wages that were allegedly seized unconstitutionally and “to vindicate his First Amendment rights.”

“Under the First Amendment, the government cannot take money from public employees’ wages to pay union dues or fees without the employees’ voluntary and informed affirmative waiver of their First Amendment right to be free of compelled funding of objectionable speech, demonstrated by clear and compelling evidence,” it said.

Plaintiffs point to a 2018 Supreme Court decision, Janus v. AFSCME, that ruled unions cannot collect dues to engage in political speech.

The union didn’t return a request for comment.

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