California Teachers Can Resign from Union

California Teachers Can Resign from Union
January 1, 1998

George A. Clowes

George Clowes is a Heartland senior fellow addressing education policy. He served as founding... (read full bio)



Teachers in California who want to resign from their union will now be able to do so without being forced to pay full union dues until the end of their current multi-year bargaining contract, according to the settlement terms of a major class-action lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for Southern California.

Assisted by National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation attorneys, San Diego Unified School District teacher Jean Apple filed the lawsuit last November, complaining that forcing teachers to maintain full union membership violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States.

Agreeing to the settlement were the National Education Association, the California Teachers Association, the San Diego Teachers Association, and the San Diego Unified School District. Apple’s employer schemed with the union hierarchy to require teachers to remain members of the union and to pay $200 per teacher per year to the union’s political and non-bargaining campaigns as a condition of employment.

Many California teachers disagree with the political and ideological activities on which those compulsory dues are spent. However, union members are not allowed to object to that spending and secure a rebate of dues spent on non-bargaining activities. Resigning from the union and becoming an agency fee payer is the only way to avoid paying such dues. The unions sought to thwart this avoidance by restricting resignation from union membership.

“The teacher unions diverted millions of dollars in compulsory union dues into far-left politics last year,” said Stefan Gleason, director of legal information for the Foundation, which offers free legal aid to victims of the abuses of compulsory unionism. “Now--with this federal court settlement--California’s educators can no longer be forced along for the ride.”

The settlement compels teacher union officials to:

  • eliminate all full membership and maintenance of membership requirements from all contracts;
  • accept the immediate resignation of teachers from union membership, including attempted resignations since 1995; and
  • refund to those teachers that portion of their dues spent on non-bargaining activities.

Gleason heralded the settlement as a welcome moment “when teachers can free themselves from the union’s grasp without obstruction.”

The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is a nonprofit, charitable organization providing free legal aid to employees whose human or civil rights have been violated by compulsory unionism abuses. The Foundation, which can be contacted toll-free at 800/336-3600, is assisting thousands of employees in over 400 cases nationwide.


George A. Clowes is managing editor of School Reform News. His email address is clowes@heartland.org.

George A. Clowes

George Clowes is a Heartland senior fellow addressing education policy. He served as founding... (read full bio)