For nearly forty years, it has been settled that, although public employees who don’t join a union cannot be required to pay for the union’s political activities, they can be charged an “agency” or “fair share” fee to pay for other costs that the union incurs – for example, for collective bargaining. After over an hour of oral arguments today, public-employee unions are likely very nervous, as the Court’s more conservative Justices appeared ready to overrule the Court’s 1977 decision in Abood v. Detroit Board of Educationand strike down the fees. Let’s talk about Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association in Plain English.
Yesterday (4Cs note: 1/11/16) the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the most fateful union case in decades. The verdict? The labor movement’s worst-case scenario—making all public sector unions right-to-work—seems to be quite likely. At the heart of Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association is the legality of compelling non-members to pay fair-share fees for union collective bargaining activity, but not political activity. And based on the conservative Justices’ line of questioning, they appear to believe that collective bargaining is inherently political, and thus a violation of free speech. Organized labor, not without some irony, has pinned its hopes in the case on winning over Antonin Scalia, who has previously voiced support for such fair-share fees. However, based on yesterday’s arguments, it appears that his legal opinions on the matter have changed.
The Jan. 10 op-ed “Time To Overturn Required Union Dues” by the Yankee Institute’s Suzanne Bates was riddled with distortions and misinformation about a case currently before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Under current law, no one is required to join a union and no one is required to contribute to its political education efforts. Nothing about the Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association lawsuit will change that.