Our Voice, Our Choice

Larry Sand

Retired Teacher, Founding President California Teachers' Empowerment Network

Like so many others, Larry Sand was subsidizing teachers unions’ and their political agenda, believing all along that he had no choice in the matter. In his 24th year as a teacher, he learned that he could opt out of the political portion of his union dues, though the complicated and circuitous nature of that process was clearly designed to discourage such action.

Shortly thereafter he read about Prop 75, a California ballot initiative that, if passed, would mean teachers and other public employees would have to give unions permission before they deducted several hundred dollars a year from each paycheck to fund its pet political causes which had nothing to do with teaching or education and almost always leaned decidedly left.

The so-called “Paycheck Protection” initiative was very popular at the time – 2005 — with both teachers and the general public, but over the summer, deeply threatened that their easy access to workers’ money would be cut off, the unions went into overdrive and spent a huge amount of money, much of it on misleading ads. The California Teachers Association told teachers that if the prop passed, their pensions would be threatened. The police union told their members that if it was successful, the public would learn where the cops lived. Both allegations were big lies, but they were effective in swaying public opinion.

Both allegations were big lies, but they were effective in swaying public opinion.

In October, several weeks before the election, Fontana teacher Lillian Perry and Larry signed off on an email sent to 90,000 teachers by the Prop. 75 campaign briefly detailing CTA’s political spending habits.

“Then, the spit really hit the fan,” Larry says. “To say that CTA was unhappy would be the understatement of the century. The email made news all over the state, and if nothing else, got everyone talking about the prop. CTA boss Barbara Kerr was indignant, saying, ‘It’s insulting that it was sent to them at their schools.’ The union tried to push the matter – even at one point threatening Perry and me with imprisonment for sending our missive to teachers at work which it claimed was illegal. The bullying didn’t work; we sent two more emails which CTA couldn’t stop because it didn’t have a legal leg to stand on.”

Fueled by CTA’s $12 million ad buys — paid for with dues money teachers were forced to fork over — the Prop 75 forces were outspent by the unions and their allies almost 10 to 1 – $54.1 million to $5.8 million – and the measure went down to defeat.

Fueled by CTA’s $12 million ad buys — paid for with dues money teachers were forced to fork over — the Prop 75 forces were outspent by the unions and their allies almost 10 to 1.

The defeat angered Larry but did not discourage him. In 2006 he co-founded the California Teachers Empowerment Network, whose mission is to give teachers unbiased information, and combat union spin and outright lies. In 2010, Larry worked on a similar proposition – The Citizens Power Initiative — which unfortunately never made it onto the ballot. In 2012 he stumped for Prop. 32, yet another initiative promoting worker freedom that, unfortunately, failed at the polls.

“Now, more than 12 years after the rise and fall of Prop. 75 – there is a lawsuit which could accomplish even more than what the failed initiatives tried to achieve,” Larry says. “The Janus v AFSCME case, due to be decided by the Supreme Court in June, would make paying any dues to a union optional for all public employees nationwide. This case promotes teacher – and all public employees – freedom and choice at the expense of union bullying and hegemony. It’s about time.”

Read more of Larry’s story and those of other teachers abused by unions in Rebecca’s book Standing Up To Goliath.