On Monday, the United States Supreme Court will hear arguments in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, a potentially landmark lawsuit brought by 10 California public school teachers. The case, which builds on recent Foundation Supreme Court victories in Knox v. SEIU (2012) and Harris v. Quinn (2014), could put an end to forced union dues in the public sector.
Below, we've put together a list of helpful links to explain the issues at stake, as the well as the implications of a favorable Friedrichs decision for civil servants across the country.
Last September, National Right to Work President Mark Mix published an op-ed in The Washington Times explaining why the High Court should take this opportunity to outlaw mandatory union dues for government employees. Key quote:
Friedrichs gives the court an opportunity to outlaw all mandatory union dues in the public sector. To be clear, such a ruling wouldn’t end government unions. Employees who genuinely support a labor organization would still be free to join up and pay dues. What it would do, however, is limit government unions’ outsized political influence.
Without a guaranteed stream of income from nonunion employees, union officials wouldn’t have nearly as much money to spend on friendly politicians. Moreover, unions that actually have to persuade employees to join and voluntarily contribute tend to be more focused on their members and less fixated on partisan politics.
Outlawing mandatory union dues or fees in the public sector would also limit the ability of union officials to handpick their negotiating partners in state and local government. Politicians who aren’t beholden to union special interests are more likely to strike better bargains for their constituents.
Ideally, no employee — public or private — would ever be forced to pay union dues to get or keep a job. In Friedrichs, the Supreme Court has a chance to restore the workplace rights of America’s civil servants and end the corrupting influence of public-sector forced dues on our political system.
Veteran National Right to Work Foundation staff attorney Bill Messenger also contributed to SCOTUSBlog's Friedrichs symposium, which offers a more in-depth look at the legal issues surrounding the case. Messenger was the lead attorney for the Foundation's Harris Supreme Court victory, which helped lay the groundwork for many of the arguments presented in Friedrichs. Key quote:
Friedrichs likely represents the terminus of this line of reasoning. By design, the case squarely presents the question wrongly decided in Abood: whether public school teachers can be forced to support union bargaining with a school district. Harris suggests that the Court will be receptive to the Friedrichs petitioners’ arguments that there is no relevant difference under the First Amendment between bargaining with government and lobbying government, in that both are petitioning government over matters of political and public concern, and that Abood should be overruled on these grounds.
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Leaving aside the positive impact on public policy of reducing the unique power and financial resources of public-sector unions, the Friedrichs decision will have profound implications for the First Amendment rights of millions of workers. An estimated five million public-sector employees are currently subject to forced-fee requirements and must pay tribute to a union as a condition of their employment. Even under the existing precedents, this is, as the Court has recognized repeatedly, a “significant impingement” on the First Amendment rights of each and every individual worker who would not voluntarily support the union which government forces them to subsidize. Overruling Abood will end the most widespread abuse of First Amendment rights in the nation, while failing to do so will perpetuate it.
For more information on the Friedrichs case, you can also check out the National Right to Work Foundation's brief in support of the plaintiffs and SCOTUSBlog's compendium of every brief submitted in the case.