Opt Out Today

California Teachers Association

How Educators in California Can Opt Out of a Portion of CTA/NEA Dues

U.S. Supreme Court decisions have established that unions are not allowed to force educators, through their union dues, to “contribute to the support of an ideological cause [they] may oppose as a condition of holding a job as a public school teacher.” Abood v. Detroit Board of Education 431 U.S. 209 (1977).

Consequently, any teacher may resign from full union membership and annually request a refund from the California Teachers Association (CTA) of any dues the union used for political and non-essential activity. Teachers will still have to pay a reduced “agency fee” to the union for its workplace representation services.

The total refund of overcharges from the union typically ranges from $250 to $400.

If you object to the CTA overcharging you for workplace representation, you may request your refund by filling out the form below, printing it, signing and mailing it to Opt Out Today:

Opt Out Today
PO Box 6683
Fullerton, CA 92834

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FAQs

How do I keep my money from going to CTA’s nonessential activities like politics and ideological causes?

Completing the form above will generate a letter you can send to resign your formal union membership and request a rebate of the portion of your dues the union spends on politics and activities unrelated to workplace representation.

Send a signed copy of your letter to:

Opt Out Today
PO Box 6683
Fullerton, CA 92834

Our legal department will submit it to the union on your behalf and will be able to assist with any follow-up required. Keep a copy of the letter for your reference.

How much is the refund?

The refund amount varies as the union’s spending on politics and nonessential activities changes from year to year. Those who opt out and pay only the agency fee get approximately a 30% refund.  A year’s refund for a full time teacher typically ranges from $250 to $400.

Refunded Amount
Local 30% or less $10 to $60
CTA 30% + $20 $211
NEA 58% $110
Total $330 to $380

The U.S. Supreme Court and California law require unions to explain to union nonmembers how it calculated the reduced agency fee the union collects from them. Chicago Teachers Union v. Hudson, 475 U.S. 292, (1986).

The most recent calculation of how much of CTAs’ dues/fees the union claims is used for legitimate workplace representation and how much it admits is used for refundable, nonessential purposes is available each year from the union.

The 2017 Hudson notice from CTA is available here. The 2017 notice from the NEA is available here.

Why can teachers opt out of full dues?

Federal courts have acknowledged that the extraordinary power of unions to seize funds from people against their will can be abused. Specifically, courts have recognized that unions have the power to wrongfully overcharge public employees for workplace services, spending the excess on political activity employees may disagree with. In essence, this results in employees being compelled  to fund political speech they don’t support in violation of the First Amendment.

Public employees have pushed back against these requirements, and the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed that employees have certain rights. As a result, you can keep the hundreds of dollars in overcharges and make your own decisions about politics and causes.

Key cases include Lehnert v. Ferris Faculty Association, 500 U.S. 507 (1991), Chicago Teachers Union v. Hudson, 475 U.S. 292, (1986), and Abood v. Detroit Board of Education 431 U.S. 209 (1977).

The California Public Employment Relations Board acknowledges these rights, and has a process unions must follow to notify employees of their rights and to issue refunds for overcharges. See Public Employment Relations Board Regulations on page 76-80.

The union acknowledges this right in your collective bargaining agreement, the Hudson Notice they send to those getting the refund each year, and in their chapter operations documents.

If I turn in the form above, will the union still help me with workplace issues?

Yes. The union must provide the full range of workplace representation services to those paying the agency fee, but you will no longer have to fund items unrelated to workplace representation like politics, marketing, litigation, and ideological causes. If CTA refuses to provide these services, it is violating its legal obligations.

The union has been recognized by the state as the exclusive representative of the members of your bargaining unit. It can and will prevent members of the bargaining unit from securing their own assistance with workplace issues. In return for the monopoly on representing teachers in your bargaining unit, unions have a corresponding legal duty to provide fair representation to all employees, whether formal union members or not. The union is required to provide workplace representation, contract enforcement, discipline assistance and grievance assistance for those paying for such services through their agency fees.

If I stop paying full dues to the union, will I still receive the same wages and benefits specified in the union contract with my employer?

Yes. The union has arranged to be the “exclusive representative” of your bargaining unit, meaning that the same contract will cover all employees. As an agency fee payer, you will continue to receive the wages and benefits specified in the contract.

Does opting out affect my pension?

No. Under state law, a union contract is binding on all employees in a bargaining unit, regardless of whether they are technically union “members.” Your compensation, benefits (including retirement) and conditions of employment are all set by the contract with your employer and the state legislature, and these will remain unchanged whether you pay full union dues or only the agency fee.

Will I get a refund automatically every year?

No. CTA’s process requires you to request your refund each fall. Resigning CTA membership is a one-time event, but as a nonmember you must request your refund from CTA annually.

Is there a deadline?

You may legally resign your full union membership at any time. To receive a refund of CTA overcharges, the union requires that you must submit your request by November 15 each year. This means that letters requesting a refund received before that date will be processed for that year.

How will my relationship with the union change if I resign my membership in CTA and pay the reduced agency fee?

While the terms of the contract will still govern your employment, as a nonmember, the union may choose to prevent you from participating in internal union affairs, such as attending union meetings or voting in union elections, including contract ratification votes. Unions also commonly withhold any special “members only” deals or discounts the union has arranged with businesses. You may no longer receive the union newsletter or similar publications.

How does CTA-NEA spend my dues money?

Public employee unions are private organizations with minimal obligations to disclose financial information to members.

U.S. Supreme Court decisions have established that agency fee payers must be given an annual accounting of how much the union spends on “nonchargeable” activities which are refunded.

CTA’s 2016-17 Hudson Packet is available here.

As a nonprofit, the IRS requires CTA’s 990 tax return to be a public document.

CTA’s 2015 IRS 990 tax return is available here.

CTA members also support the National Education Association (NEA) with a portion of their dues. The NEA is obligated to report expenditures, salaries, political amounts and other details as required by the federal Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act.

 

If I opt out, will I still have legal liability protection?

It is the school district’s responsibility to shield district employees from legal liability, not the union’s. Sometimes the collective bargaining agreement specifically requires the district to provide liability protection for employees. Check your union contract for details regarding any district-provided protection. Also contact the district business office if you want to learn how your primary liability protection is provided.

The NEA maintains a low-cost legal liability policy for NEA’s legal bills on behalf of members that supplements the protection already provided by your employer. Nonmembers are not covered by the NEA liability policy.

If you feel more protection is necessary, similar liability insurance can be obtained through other independent professional education associations like the Association of American Educators (AAE), Christian Educators Association International, a homeowner’s policy, or from an insurance provider.

Will the union exclude me from workplace decisions?

Often, but not always. Some union local presidents will not allow bargaining unit members who pay for workplace representation to participate in bargaining unit decisions like contract votes or strike votes. This is unfair, but since they technically have no legal obligation to allow anyone to vote in the first place, they can legally exclude fee payers. Of course, nonmembers are not allowed to vote in union elections or other union business.

Can I donate to a charity instead?

Those who have a personal religious, faith-based objection to the union or its activities are allowed under state and federal law to donate the full amount of their dues to a charity instead of supporting the union. This option requires the objector to write a letter to the local union president. For more information about the accommodation for religious objectors, see the information here.

Why do unions get to take my money in the first place?

In Cal. Gov. Code § 3540, the state legislature granted unions a monopoly over workplace representation services for public school employees and allowed them to require school employees to financially support the union . CTA long ago secured the privilege of representing educators in many school districts across California. Few educators have ever had an opportunity to vote on union representation.

Unions representing public employees are not governed by the usual consumer protection or anti-trust laws, so abuses are possible. For example: Unions can charge whatever they wish. They can spend dues money on whatever they wish. They do not have to disclose how dues money is spent to members. They can speak for employees without consulting or informing them. They can injure some members’ interests while advancing the interests of others. They can prevent employees from getting help in their workplace from other sources. They are not governed by any obligation to provide quality service, and they almost never have to seek approval of the bargaining unit in an election to continue as the exclusive provider of workplace services.

Why do people opt out of the union?

Some teachers simply do not like being overcharged for the services they receive.

Most who believe the union arrangement is not a good fit have more specific concerns. They may find that the union’s one-size-fits-all agenda does not serve them well because they are new to the profession, have a specialty which is not acknowledged in bargaining, or they believe their effectiveness is undercompensated. Some resent the union’s role in enabling and defending underperforming educators. Many find the politicking and use of dues to advance partisan causes, candidates and ideology distasteful. Still others believe that union officials take advantage of the power to force people to pay by overcharging and underperforming.

Some states and some school districts do not allow unions to force educators to support them financially. Public sector union activities – including negotiating with government – potentially violate the First Amendment rights of workers who are forced to fund the political voice of the union. In a pending U.S. Supreme Court Case, Janus v. AFSCME, a public employee from Illinois is seeking to prove that being forced to financially support a union is unconstitutional.  A ruling is expected in June 2018.