In an oft-quoted scene from “The Godfather,” Michael Corleone and family consigliere Tom Hagen discuss a planned hit on a competing mobster and dirty cop. Michael assures Tom, and his brother Sonny, that “It’s not personal. … It’s strictly business.” That’s a well-known line. We might have to kill you, but don’t worry — it’s just business.

If you are, say, a public-school teacher or police officer and run for elected office and the union chooses to back your opponent then the money you have been paying would in essence be used to support your political demise. I’ve heard of at least one case where something like that has happened. Don’t worry though, it’s not personal.

In reality, thousands of California teachers (and other union members) are forced to back political causes that go against their beliefs and interests, although not always in as direct of a way as the example above. That’s because they are forced to pay dues to the union, whether they want to be part of it or not.

It’s the core element of a legal case filed by eight California teachers, including an Orange County plaintiff, that education reformers are hoping will make it to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2018. The technical elements of the case involve “agency shop fees” — i.e., the fees that pay for unions’ collective-bargaining efforts.

In a 1977 U.S. Supreme Court decision known asAbood, justices agreed it’s a First Amendment violation to force people to fund direct political causes they might not support. But they upheld laws requiring government employees to pay “chargeable” expenses related to contract negotiations. The court reasoned that employees benefit from such negotiations, so they must help pay for them.

As a result, teachers in California can opt out of union membership and refuse to pay for political activities. The CTA is among the most powerful interest groups in the state Capitol, and its power is tied to this unending money supply. Not surprisingly, unhappy teachers complain about a paperwork maze and annual opt-out process that makes it inordinately difficult for them to withhold these contributions. That process is part of the new complaint.

The crux of this case involves what it means to fund collective bargaining. “California’s teachers’ unions routinely take positions in the collective-bargaining process that have profound political and budgeting consequences,” according to the lawsuit filed Monday. “For example, public-sector unions’ collective bargaining over wages and benefits has a significant impact on public finances.”

Furthermore, the plaintiffs note that unions use their negotiating might to insist on seniority and tenure provisions, pension increases, limits on charter schools and controversial curriculum matters. It’s a good point. I’m less concerned about unions funding political candidates than I am about their ability to drive up pension debt and promote tenure guidelines that make it nearly impossible for school districts to get rid of incompetent teachers. The plaintiffs shouldn’t have to fund these efforts that may be an affront to their deeply held views.

The case, by the way, deals with teachers’ unions but could ultimately mandate changes for all unions that represent government employees, especially in the 23 states, including California, where employees aren’t free to avoid these fees.

Education reformers were optimistic that the Supreme Court would toss out the mandatory dues requirement — or perhaps change the way the opt-out process operates. Justice Samuel Alito in 2014 practically invited a First Amendment challenge on this issue, andFriedrichs v. California Teachers Associationlooked like the vehicle to change things.

But that case, involving another Orange County teacher (Rebecca Friedrichs), ended in 4-4 tie on the court following the untimely death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February 2016. If this case makes it to the nation’s high court next year, there likely will be a new Republican appointee on board. That gives reformers renewed hope.

Union officials are complaining that the case could undermine their ability to get fair deals for employees. But that’s nonsense. Before Scalia’s death, public-employee unions like the CTA had been expecting an end to their current arrangement, and making plans to deal with it. Some of their actions were dreadful, such as backing a state bill that would mandate a “public employee orientation” that would allow them to arm-twist new employees into signing up.

But some of their approaches were heartening. CTA’s “Not if, but when” presentation expressed predictable fears about the loss of payroll deductions, but called for “working on the integration of the value proposition of belonging to CTA.” In other words, they were preparing to reach out to teachers to convince them of the great value in belonging to their union.

Imagine that: a union that treats teachers as customers and provides real value in exchange for their money. It’s worlds away from unions being able to just say, “tough luck, it’s nothing personal,” as they spend money against employees’ wishes. But it’s the way the world ought to work.

Image by ishkov sergey

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