“Full Measure” host Sharyl Attkisson interviews Rebecca Friedrichs, the author of Standing Up to Goliath: Battling State and National Teachers’ Unions for the Heart and Soul of Our Kids and Country, about the debate over forced membership in public sector unions and her Supreme Court case, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association.
SHARYL ATTKISSON: Why did you object being forced to pay into the teacher union?
REBECCA FRIEDRICHS: The Teachers Union took my money from day one and spent it on far left political causes that were not only against my own values, but we’re bringing harm to the children that I’m hired to serve and protect.
SHARYL ATTKISSON: What made you decide to do a legal challenge? Because this is something we’ve heard about from actually many professions over the years, but most people do not think they’re going to take a case to court.
REBECCA FRIEDRICHS: Well, I decided to take a legal challenge because I had tried everything in my power to make my voice heard from within the union and from without. I even served three years on the executive board of my local union and I was bullied, shut down and silenced even as a union leader.
SHARYL ATTKISSON: When you say teachers are bullied by the Union, you mean
REBECCA FRIEDRICHS: Yes.
SHARYL ATTKISSON: By union leaders?
REBECCA FRIEDRICHS: In 2009, I was a leader in my local union and went to a California Teacher’s Association leadership conference. One teacher, brave teacher, had the courage to stand up and ask a question. She stated that she was there for the teachers in her district and that they were all disturbed, that their money was being used to fund politics against their will and behind their backs. And they wanted to know what they could do to have a voice in the way our money is spent. The union leadership on the stage stood together sort of in a, in a gang like mentality. And they shut her down. They basically told her that she was a bigot if she didn’t believe their way. They told us that the union way is the only right way to think and that if we didn’t believe in or support their politics, there was something wrong with us. All 300 teachers set their dead silent. We were like little children bullied on the playground.
SHARYL ATTKISSON: Is this, for those who aren’t familiar with the fight at its heart, a battle of conservative teachers are more conservative leaning people fighting the more liberal minded teachers or the unions?
REBECCA FRIEDRICHS: I don’t think this is a battle of conservative against liberal. No, because I know many liberal teachers who are upset with the teacher’s unions. The teachers’ unions have actually taken over the teaching profession. I call it real teachers versus teachers union activists. They are planting activist teachers in schools all across the country and those teachers are very far left. Many of them radical and they are mean and they bully teachers.
SHARYL ATTKISSON: What would you say is the heart of your lawsuit?
REBECCA FRIEDRICHS: Our basic argument was this: teachers should be able to decide for ourselves without fear or coercion whether or not to fund a union. We just wanted choice.
SHARYL ATTKISSON: Aren’t there some things that they’ve been able to do to protect workers, provide pensions, make sure working conditions are good? Are you an essence inadvertently fighting that too?
REBECCA FRIEDRICHS: I think the union started out as something really good and if they would stick to their mission, I think that would be great, but the state and national teachers’ unions have become what they used to fight. When we ask for accountability, when we ask them to do the things that we would like them to do were shut down and harassed and silenced. That’s not a union. That’s a gang of bullies.
SHARYL ATTKISSON: Your case was heard before the Supreme Court on January 11th, 2016. What was the outcome and what’s happened since?
REBECCA FRIEDRICHS: The outcome of our case was a four to four deadlock because one month after our oral arguments, Justice Scalia tragically died, so we lost his vote. the day we lost was pretty devastating. So I just asked God to give me strength and I started writing my book. I started interviewing teachers and parents and children from across the country and wrote standing up to Goliath. And while I was doing that, my friend Mark Janus brought his case forward and the United States Supreme Court accepted it.
SHARYL ATTKISSON: Like Friedrichs, Janus sought to end the practice of government employees being forced to pay unions.
REBECCA FRIEDRICHS: Mark’s case was heard in February of 2018 and miraculously Mark won on my birthday. So that was a pretty great day.
SHARYL ATTKISSON: The battle continues. After the Supreme Court banned forced union membership of public employees, Friedrichs says some teachers complained they began getting bullied to remain in the union.
Written by Tim Hains for Real Clear Politics ~ March 10, 2019