Labor in the firing line again, thanks to a Cal State professor and Virginian anti-union group

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Remember this year’s narrow 5-4 Supreme Court decision barring public employee unions from charging non-members for their portion of collective bargaining costs?

Well, based on that ruling, one William Brice, a Cal State  professor, is suing the California Faculty Association in a federal court, aiming to get back thousands of dollars he’s paid to the union over the years.

Brice contends that the union has taken a bunch of stands that are “so far to the left” of his own opinions that he deems his contributions to amount to forced speech contrary to his First Amendment rights.

But of course, Brice isn’t doing this alone. And perhaps he didn’t come up with the idea himself. Also involved is Virginia-based, anti-union National Right to Work (NRTW). It filed the suit. NRTW has previously been involved in similar efforts, including in Minnesota where a union was forced to return money to workers as a result of the Janus ruling.

Faculty Association chief Jennifer Eagan told CAL Matters that the suit was all about “weaken[ing] workers’ collective power by forcing unions to pay years of back fair-share fees that were collected in good faith reliance.”

Actually, it’s probably about trying to counter Democratic strength in California, head-on. As CAL Matters also notes, Eagan’s group spent “$2.2 million on California campaigns in 2017-18, including $300,000 to help elect Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom.” Newsom presumably didn’t need the cash, but some other Democrats probably found it valuable in helping them decimate Republicans with 2018’s blue wave.

In California, that wave was more like a tsunami. That’s bound to be a concern for NRTW backers, whether or not it is for NRTW’s lawyers helping Brice with his lawsuit in Sacramento.

Also worth remembering: Cal State and the CFA have had some pretty major run-ins over pay and and admissions policies over the years (Eagan even copped to union members using “militant” tactics to achieve a 2016 pay hike). So a Cal State professor suing seems designed to grab extra attention, in view of that history.

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