Los Angeles Special Education Teacher Helps Fellow Public Workers Exercise Their First Amendment Rights
Groups working to support and expand workers’ rights, like My Pay, My Say and Workers for Opportunity, recognize that the Supreme Court’s Janus decision was historic, but not the final step in the fight to protect workers’ rights. Helping workers understand and exercise their newly restored rights and removing arbitrary obstacles to opting-out is where the fight is now.
Tommy Few, a special education teacher employed in Los Angeles, faced and overcame these obstacles. While he is a committed teacher who truly enjoys his profession of helping special needs children grow and learn, he did not believe in the political causes his union supported. Only after much effort was Tommy was able to finally leave his union, even following the Janus decision. He no longer pays dues to an organization he did not choose to support and is now playing a leading role in helping his fellow workers understand they have options, too.
WFO works to advance worker liberty, with a focus on transparency, union democracy, choice in union members and implementing Janus rights. Tommy is working as a volunteer with My Pay My Say volunteer and spending his free time helping other workers better understand their rights. He has been going door to door in Southern California, answering questions over the phone and continuing the fight on the ground.
United Teachers of Los Angeles, Tommy’s now-former union, consistently supported political causes – with his union dues and fees – that he did not agree with. But before Janus, in order to keep his job, he had to remain an agency fee payer – a nonmember who pays slightly reduced dues and still falls under the collective bargaining agreement.
With the Supreme Court ruling in favor of worker rights in Janus v. AFSCME in June 2018, Tommy elected to disassociate with his union. But he faced adversity in his efforts to leave the union. After hand-delivering a letter to the union president and still receiving a negative response, Tommy decided it was time to seek help. He reached out to My Pay, My Say, a project of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy and the California Policy Center, to obtain legal assistance.
After months of unsuccessful attempts to leave his union, he filed a lawsuit against the union, the Los Angeles Unified School District and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, on grounds that his First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and association were violated.
The litigation is still ongoing, but now does not have to pay anything to the organization he did not choose to support. The fight isn’t over; Tommy hopes to recover dues back to the date in which he was hired, as well as be released from the union contract and represent himself in his employment.
Workers for Opportunity is proud to collaborate with dedicated individuals like Tommy Few in the ongoing efforts to advance worker freedom.