Rebecca Friedrichs, plaintiff in the 2016 Supreme Court case Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, said ongoing teachers strikes in California are “about more money for teachers unions’ far-left politics.” She offered her remarks in a Monday interview on SiriusXM’s Breitbart News Tonight with hosts Rebecca Mansour and Joel Pollak.
The interview took place during Los Angeles’s ongoing teachers’ strike in Los Angeles, the first of its kind in 30 years in California’s largest city. Roughly two-thirds of children are out of school, creating hardship for tens of thousands of families; many of them poor, working-class, or minority households.
In Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, Friedrichs challenged the Supreme Court’s 1977 decision in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, which held that public sector unions may impose dues on non-members working for government agencies whose employees they ostensibly represent. Abood v. Detroit Board of Education was overturned by the Supreme Court’s 2018 Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 31 decision.
Friedrichs argued in her lawsuit that mandatory union dues imposed on teachers — and other education professionals — via compulsory unionization violated First Amendment protections.
Friedrichs said, “Everything the unions do in a public school setting is political. Even collective bargaining is political because the unions are on both sides of the table. People they’ve placed into office are sitting on the opposite side of the table. So the taxpayer never has a voice, but the taxpayer pays the bills. So it’s all political.”
Friedrichs said, “Now you know why there are teacher strikes all across the country, because during oral arguments in that case, the union lawyers literally said, and I quote, if the Janus case won and people like myself are freed from being forced to fund unions, the unions would, quote, ‘raise an untold specter of union unrest throughout the country because,’ quote, ‘union security is the trade-off for no strikes.’ That’s why we have teacher strikes today.”
Pollak shared, “I have a teachers’ union member in my family. My sister is a teacher. Public school, private school, she’s moved back and forth. She likes the union. She feels like the union protects her from abusive administrators and whatnot. We’ve got this strike. Nobody can figure out exactly what it’s about. We’re told the Los Angeles strike is about salaries and classroom sizes, but you think it’s really about politics. Tell us more.”
Friedrichs replied, “It’s about politics. First let me address your sister. Most teachers are like your sister, because they like their local association; their friends that stand together against a corrupt system. Teachers don’t realize their schools are corrupt thanks to state and national teachers’ unions that teachers are funding in the billions every year. So your sister likes her local, I guarantee it. But if she knew what the state and national [teachers’ unions] were doing with her money, like funding divisive things like masculinity being toxic — teachers’ unions fund all that stuff push all that divisive rhetoric — she probably wouldn’t like that. She just doesn’t know she’s funding it.”
Friedrichs added, “Teachers’ unions in L.A. have been offered a six percent raise. They’ve been offered more nurses, counselors, librarians — who would all pay dues, by the way — and they’ve even been offered the smaller class sizes they want. They’re continuing to strike because they’ve been convinced by state and national teachers’ unions that they need to push for a moratorium on charter schools and push for full unionization of charter schools. So those teachers are denying school choice to the very little kids who need it.”
Friedrichs went on, “Teachers, most of them are good people who just don’t get it, that they’re being used to push an agenda. Why do state and national teachers’ unions want a moratorium on charter schools? Because most charter schools are not unionized, so teachers’ unions don’t get teachers’ dues money out of those schools. Bottom line.”
Pollak invited Friedrichs to respond to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (R-NY) expressed support for striking teachers in opposition to “privatization” of education.
These LA teachers striking against privatization + demanding smaller classrooms/more support for their students is a whole 2019 mood
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) January 14, 2019
“[Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez] just repeated a union talking point,” replied Friedrichs. “You can find it in all the union documents. There is no such thing as the privatization of public schools. They just make that up because it fits their narrative. it’s very confusing to parents on the ground, because parents don’t understand what’s going on.”
Friedrichs explained, “Here in California we’ve tried three times to push for school choice. The best thing for every child and every parent is to have school choice, to pick the school that’s best for your child; best for your child’s learning style or maybe a school closer to your work; whatever it is you need. But the teachers’ unions continue to come up with these horrifying talking points, and people buy into it and believe them and vote against their own values. That’s exactly what this is about. It’s about more money for teachers’ unions, more money for teachers’ unions far-left politics, and more teachers paying union dues. That’s what this is all about. It has nothing to do with the children. In fact, it’s harming many children.”
Friedrichs recalled, “I served as a union leader for three years in my school district because I thought, stupidly, that I could hope to change things from within, because all of my teacher friends agreed with me. None of us wanted to be involved with politics. We got into teaching to teach children, not to be political or to be used as pawns in a political match. So I joined.”
“My husband and I went to a state-level California Teachers Association conference and we were stunned,” recollected Friedrichs. “We walked into the expo center and w thought we were in the wrong conference because every single table was covered with politically charged materials favoring the far left. For example, there were tables all about pro-abortion, all about LGBT rights and LGBT student rights. Anything you can dream up, the far left was on those tables. We couldn’t find anything that had to do with helping us teachers become better educators.”
Friedrichs continued, “We learned at that conference, I was in this large room and a teacher dared to ask a question. She said, ‘Hey, I’m here representing my teacher colleagues, and we are concerned that so much of our money is being spent on political ideology. We’re against a lot of it, and we just don’t think our dues money should be spent on politics. What can we do about that?’ They shut her down so thoroughly and with such cruelty from the stage that 300 teachers in that room were dead silent; terrified; stuck to our seats. That’s how they control teachers; with angry rhetoric and shutting us down if we dare to question them. Everything they talk about is far-left politics, and boy, if you don’t agree, you get squashed.”
Friedrichs states, “The sad thing about public school teachers is that they are unaware that they are funding the demise of their profession and the demise of their schools, because the teachers’ unions are the ones who are pushing for all of the policies [and] leaders across the state of California that are causing the very problems you just listed off.”
Friedrichs dismissed narratives of class sizes compromising pedagogical quality.
“If there’s good discipline in a school, I can teach any class size,” stated Friedrichs. “The problem is when there’s a lack of discipline. The teachers’ unions have brought in a total lack of discipline with their radical [and] divisive racial equity discipline policies. That’s a whole other interview, just to understand that, but teachers’ classrooms are falling apart and they don’t understand that’s it’s the unions’ fault. That’s why they want smaller class sizes.”
Friedrichs noted the volume of state budgets being consumed by ever-increasing teachers’ unions’ financial demands for members’ compensation.
“The district in which I live in southern California, now 100% of our funding goes to paying pay and pensions,” highlighted Friedrichs. “Teachers don’t understand that their defined benefit pension programs — which taxpayers are on the hook for paying those pensions whether the money is there or not — are a big part of the problem. They are trillions and trillions of dollars of unfunded pension liabilities across the country. So these teachers don’t understand that because their unions refuse to work with really smart folks who understand math to fix these pensions; not to cheat teachers but to do it in a way that actually makes sense and where we can all afford to fund them. Because they won’t listen, the schools are now spending all their money on pay and pensions. There’s nothing left for the kids. How can you have smaller and smaller class sizes when all of your resources have been used up for pay and pensions?”
Friedrichs concluded, “In addition, 52 percent of the California state budget is already used towards education. The governor just offered; I just watched a television program where he offered some more billions. I don’t know how many, they said $24 billion. I don’t know if that’s the total or what, but he’s offering more, and the unions said that’s an insult, it’s not enough. What about our roads? What about other public needs besides what the teachers’ unions want?”
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