LA Teacher Sues UTLA, Says Demand to Defund Police Was the Last Straw

Glenn Laird

Glenn Laird is the last person his union wants you to hear from for at least two different reasons.

Not only is he a textbook example of why so many government employees are opting out of membership and dues, but he’s also Exhibit A when it comes to the strongarm tactics unions employ when they try.

Now he’s the plaintiff in a lawsuit against the union filed on March 16 in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California by the Freedom Foundation, whose lawyers are providing representing Laird pro bono.

Laird, a 38-year California teacher, spent most of his career as a proud member of United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA), carrying a picket sign during strikes and even serving as a union officer. But that relationship was irrevocably fractured last spring when the union, while floating its demands for returning to the classroom as the COVID-19 pandemic winds down, included defunding the police on the list.

“In the 1980s,” Laird recalled, “I lost a former student to gun violence on campus. School police were on scene and an officer performed CPR, while another officer pursued the shooter. (The teachers’ union has) an agenda that does not accept that violence happens. And when it does, police are needed.”

Defunding law enforcement was only one of several outrageous conditions UTLA claimed the school district would have to meet before its members would agree to resume in-school instruction.

And like the union’s demand that charter schools be abolished, it had nothing whatsoever to do with COVID.

UTLA was simply exploiting the public’s fears about the virus in order to demand concessions it had been unable to win at the bargaining table — and it was doing so without even bothering to call a strike or wait until its collective bargaining agreement had expired.

But even at that, the union wasn’t asking for better wages, benefits, or working conditions. Instead, UTLA had prioritized the radical liberal agenda of its leaders above the legitimate workplace concerns of its members — and was willing to hold Los Angeles students and their parents hostage until it got what it wanted.

“I couldn’t, in good conscience, be a member and pay dues knowing that my money was supporting an anti-police agenda,” Laird said. “I support fully funding the police to keep our students safe.”

But wait, it gets better.

When UTLA floated its demand to defund police, Laird immediately sought to opt out of the union. But his request was denied when UTLA claimed he had signed a membership agreement that limited opt-outs to a two-week annual window.

Except he hadn’t.

When he signed the form, Laird took care to black out the escape-window language with a felt pen.

Not that it should have mattered anyway, you understand. Three years ago, in Janus v. AFSCME, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed that mandatory union membership and dues or fees in the public sector are a violation of the worker’s First Amendment rights.

And an unconstitutional contract is unenforceable no matter what other provisions it contains — all the more so if the worker clearly did not agree to be bound by it in the first place.

But the larger issue is what the episode signals about the union’s motives.

This isn’t a case of incompetence or a paperwork error. It’s the union’s deliberate attempt to ignore rules it doesn’t like.

Like most government employee unions, UTLA talks a good game. But cases like this show what’s really important to them. UTLA couldn’t care less about its workers’ welfare or wishes. They’re simply paychecks to be plundered and used to fund a radical leftist agenda.

Jeff Rhodes is vice president for news and information at the Freedom Foundation, a national nonprofit with the mission to advance individual liberty, free enterprise, and limited, accountable government.