The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Janus v. AFSCME (2018) that public-sector unions cannot require employees to pay dues and fees. The decision meant teachers could reject union membership and not be forced to pay union dues.
Regardless of the ruling, many teachers remain with the unions, Heartland Daily News reported previously. Reportedly, some teachers are afraid to leave the union, fearing retribution, and some are unaware of their right to do so.
In part 4 of our exclusive interview, California author, education freedom advocate, and former teacher Rebecca Friedrichs (see biographical details below) talks about the power wielded by teachers unions, the fraught relationship between unions and teachers, and how the public can help free teachers from abusive unions.
Heartland Daily News: Since the Janus decision, teachers no longer have to join a union, yet many of them do. Why is that?
Friedrichs: It’s several things. First of all, when we were bringing our case, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, we also sued the National Education Association. The union started something called the “Friedrichs Fix.” The unions were telling all their favored politicians that this Friedrichs case is coming down; we need to fix this problem. All these government employees won’t be forced to pay unions anymore.
They did this because they knew we were going to win once our oral arguments were heard. It was obvious we were going to win, so they started doing these fixes, and here’s what they were able to do in the legislatures. In whatever state these fixes were passed, a school district is not allowed to tell educators, and the DMV is not allowed to tell DMV workers, to tell us that we’ve been freed from the unions, so people don’t know they have an option.
Another one of their fixes, which they have here in California and I don’t know how many other states, is that they were able to get the right to get updated personal contact information on every employee. Every single [employee] in that district—the unions are getting updated personal contact information on them. They’re getting that information, and nobody else is allowed to get it.
Another thing they were able to pass was when the new employee comes in, the union gets 30 minutes with that employee to convince them how great the union is, and you know they’re strongarming them. But nobody else gets that right [to talk with the employee]. They don’t get that opportunity. Only the unions.
Heartland Daily News: In your book you talk about teachers being “beaten down.”
Friedrichs: Yes, the other thing is fear. Just think about the cancel culture that we’re in and how you’re silenced if you don’t agree with a certain narrative. Teachers have been under that for decades. Teachers have been beaten down for years, and other government employees as well, because the unions use mafia tactics, and so the fear is massive.
I can’t emphasize the fear enough. It’s Goliath, and it’s debilitating. I’ve talked to thousands of teachers, and 98 percent of them are going tell me, “I’m too terrified to leave the union. I’m scared they’re going to destroy my job. I’m scared they’re going to put me in eighth grade and make me teach something I don’t know. I’m scared they’re going to give me all the discipline problem [children] that I won’t be able to teach. I’m scared they’re going to chase me out of my job.”
And they have reason to have these fears, because the unions make sure to make examples out of some teachers. There are teachers who have been falsely accused, chased out of their jobs, and so teachers are just terrified. Which again is why I say we need to get the unions out.
Heartland Daily News: Your Adopt A Teacher program is intended to protect teachers from abuse. What is your vision for that program?
Friedrichs: Our vision for Adopt A Teacher is to empower teachers. Teachers feel alone. They have felt alone and terrified for many, many years. They are confused. They don’t know who’s on their side.
Teachers feel like they’re carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders and no matter how hard they work, nobody is happy with them. Everybody is blaming them that the kids aren’t learning. Everybody is blaming them for all the problems in the world. Only it’s not them. They’re working hard. It’s the union, but the union doesn’t get the blame. The teachers get blamed.
Heartland Daily News: How does this program help teachers?
Friedrichs: What we’re trying to do with Adopt A Teacher is several things. You’re supposed to pick a teacher that you know, or many teachers. Embrace a teacher, put your arm around them and tell them, “I’m grateful for you.”
Number two is to educate them. The reason I wrote my book is to help educate teachers, because parents would say to me, “I want to educate them, but I don’t know what to say.” I said, “Here’s a book. This says everything they need to know. Educate them and then give them a copy of the book. Take them out to lunch to talk about it, and encourage them.”
So then the third step is that the teachers are enlightened as they read the book. Now, when people become enlightened, they often go into a depression or blame themselves. Thus the fourth step is to empathize, and step five is to encourage them. Let them know you are going to stand with them.
The final step is to empower them. Empower these teachers to stand up and face the unions. Let them know they can immediately opt out and we have our organization For Kids and Country to help them with that. They just come to our website forkidsandcountry.org and click on union exit. We outline all the steps they need.
In the final segment of our exclusive five-part interview, Friedrichs provides a sneak peak at her upcoming movie available in theatres in March, Whose Children Are They?, in which Friedrichs and many other education experts share their insights and concerns about the current state of the American public school system.
Friedrichs taught in elementary schools for 28 years in southern California. After years of frustration with the California Teachers Union (CTA), she filed a lawsuit known as Friedrichs v. California Teachers’ Association, aimed at eliminating the forced unionization of teachers. The case was argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in 2016, which affirmed a lower-court decision against Friedrichs, because the court was deadlocked after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. The goal of Friedrichs’ suit was accomplished two years later in the landmark case Janus v. AFSCME.
Friedrichs’ book, Standing up to Goliath: Battling State and National Teachers’ Unions for the Heart and Soul of our Kids and Country, documents her battles with the unions and the details of the lawsuit. Friedrichs is a Prager U host, was a panel participant for the Fox Nation series The Miseducation of America, and is the producer for the upcoming documentary Whose Children Are They?, available in select theaters on March 14. Friedrichs is the founder of For Kids and Country, an organization working to “unite, educate, engage and empower parents, teachers, students and citizens in the fight to restore America’s schools and culture.”