Today’s story is unusual not just for the subject under discussion, but also for where it’s taking place. Out in California, a group of teachers have a case currently winding through the courts which protests the requirement for teachers to join a union and pay dues as a condition of employment. And this is the sort of thing that keeps union officials up at night.

A federal lawsuit filed by a group of California public school teachers saying mandatory payment of union dues violates their right of free speech is moving forward in the courts..

In essence, in California and 25 other “closed shop” states, the teachers by law must join a union as a condition of employment and pay union dues to keep their jobs.

Union reps say those fees help their efforts to improve workplace safety, for instance, and get better contracts for all employees. They add that teachers can opt-out of paying dues that fund political activities.

That defense from the unions will probably sound familiar to those of you who regularly follow union activity. Whatever it is that they want you to do – no matter how outrageous it may seem – is the default position. And if it seems to be clearly illegal, if not unconstitutional, they point to some obscure clause where the employee can sign a bunch of forms, provide video testimony and donate a pint of blood to “opt out” of their program. Of course, once you do go public and opt out, you mysteriously wind up at the bottom of the list for overtime, promotions, or anything else you might want… assuming you hang on to your job.

This case will be fascinating to watch, particularly on the heels of other court actions taking place in Wisconsin and New Jersey. This one heads next to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, and from there almost certainly to the Supreme Court. If the teachers carry the day, it could spell the dawn of a whole new era for workers in “closed shop” states where these types of rules which strongly resemble extortion are currently the law of the land.