L.A. Teacher’s Fight With Union Appealed To Supreme Court

'I support fully funding the police to keep our students safe.'

John Baggaley. Getty Images. Cherry blossoms at the Supreme Court on a windy morning in Washington, D.C.
John Baggaley. Getty Images.

Much to the annoyance of the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA), Glenn Laird refuses to go away quietly.

After decades as a Los Angeles teacher, Laird is involved in a messy lawsuit with the union over its reluctance to allow him to opt out of membership and dues as prescribed by law. Last week, the case was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. 

What makes his experience so compelling for the public — and embarrassing for UTLA — is that Laird is neither a malcontent nor a union-basher by inclination. He is, in fact, a much-decorated educator who served for many years as UTLA campus chapter co-chair.

But when the union began advocating several years ago to “defund the police” and put students’ and teachers’ lives at risk, he’d had enough.

Over the years, Laird has witnessed countless violent acts on campus, including the death of a former student, and was outraged that UTLA would call for the removal of law enforcement from the district’s schools.

“I couldn’t in good conscience continue to pay dues to an organization that was campaigning against something that is so personal to me,” explained Laird. “I support fully funding the police to keep our students safe.”

He responded by opting out of his UTLA membership and requesting it stop taking his money to fund messaging with which he disagrees.

His legal right to do so is unequivocal. In 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed in Janus v. AFSCME that unions could no longer take public employees’ money for use in political speech without their consent.

The ruling also specified that by agreeing to give money to a public labor union, workers are waiving their First Amendment right against compelled speech.

In the case of Glenn Laird, UTLA tried to have it both ways.

They told Laird his previous agreement was an effective waiver of his First Amendment rights, even though he signed it before Janus was even decided.

Even more to the point, the union refused to honor the terms of Laird’s actual agreement, which allowed him to end the deduction of his money. He specifically objected to the last union agreement he signed with UTLA by striking out the language supposedly restricting his ability to end his membership at any time with a felt marker.

UTLA kept taking his money without his consent anyway.

In other words, the First Amendment did not matter.

Left with no alternative, Laird took UTLA and the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) to federal court. Represented pro bono by the Freedom Foundation, he asked the court to rule on the scope of his constitutional rights, and to acknowledge UTLA’s violations.

But UTLA doesn’t want a judge to decide the constitutional claims.

Instead, its leaders cut him a check for the money deducted from his pay without his consent and asked him to please drop the case.

This tactic has become all too common among public unions trying to avoid their responsibilities under the First Amendment.

Laird refused to dismiss his lawsuit, and with good reason. Because his case is about more than the return of his money. In fact, Laird is donating the entire amount he received from UTLA to a nonprofit group that helps disadvantaged students in the Los Angeles area.

When judges at both the lower court level and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the union, the Freedom Foundation filed a request with the U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in.

Glenn Laird’s case is about a judicial acknowledgment and vindication of his First Amendment rights by a federal judge. As long as unions can cut checks using their members’ dues dollars to make lawsuits disappear, judges will never have the opportunity to rule on the actual constitutional issues, rendering the First Amendment and Janus decision meaningless.

“Hopefully the Supreme Court will find my case worthy of making a ruling,” concluded Laird. “Janus set the stage, but now we need to build on that precedent so unions and lower court judges don’t continue to ignore the Supremes.”

While it should not take a federal lawsuit for unions to recognize their responsibilities under the Constitution, UTLA doesn’t get to put a price tag on the First Amendment and cannot kill a case by simply doing the right thing after the fact.

For one principled Los Angeles teacher, the fight is far from over.

* * *

Timothy R. Snowball is a civil rights attorney with Freedom Foundation, where his practice is focused on protecting the First Amendment rights of government workers to make their own decisions about whether to join or support public sector unions.

The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.

Create Free Account

Continue reading this exclusive article and join the conversation, plus watch free videos on DW+

Already a member?

Got a tip worth investigating?

Your information could be the missing piece to an important story. Submit your tip today and make a difference.

Submit Tip
Download Daily Wire Plus

Don't miss anything

Download our App

Stay up-to-date on the latest
news, podcasts, and more.

Download on the app storeGet it on Google Play
The Daily Wire   >  Read   >  L.A. Teacher’s Fight With Union Appealed To Supreme Court