Washington, DC (March 2, 2015) – National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys have filed a “friend of the Court” brief with the U.S. Supreme Court, urging it to hear a challenge to public-sector union officials’ power to force America’s civil servants into dues-paying ranks. Foundation attorneys filed the brief late Friday in support of the challenge, titled Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, brought by ten California teachers supported by the Center for Individual Rights.
Nearly 40 years ago, the Court ruled in the Foundation’s Abood v. Detroit Board of Education case that public-sector workers can be compelled to pay union fees as a condition of employment, but have a constitutional right to refrain from the part used for union political and members-only activities. Since then, National Right to Work Foundation-assisted workers have repeatedly challenged government union officials’ power to force public employees into union fee payments as a job condition.
In 2012, the Court suggested in the Right to Work Foundation-won Knox v. SEIU ruling that it was ready to reassess whether union officials’ forced dues powers, which it called “something of an anomaly,” violate workers’ First Amendment rights. Responding to that suggestion, many workers have filed lawsuits seeking to eliminate forced unionism in America. Several of those cases are Foundation-supported.
In Knox‘s wake, the Court ruled last year in another Foundation-won case that individuals who indirectly receive state subsidies based on their clientele cannot be forced to pay union fees. This victory in Harris v. Quinn, a class-action suit filed by several Foundation-assisted Illinois homecare providers, renders unconstitutional similar homecare unionization schemes in at least 13 other states, freeing roughly 500,000 providers from forced union dues nationwide. Moreover, in Harris, the Court criticized Abood‘s allowance of any forced fees for public employees as “questionable on several grounds.”
Foundation staff attorneys also are assisting nine airline fleet employees who are suing the Transport Workers Union of America to establish railroad and airline workers’ right to refrain from paying any union dues or fees. In December 2014, a federal district court judge granted the case class-action status. Underscoring the case’s significance, the Department of Justice then intervened in the case to defend the constitutionality of forced union fees.
In their Friedrichs brief, Foundation attorneys explain why the Court should take the case and strike down union officials’ forced dues powers, describing the lessons learned from many cases involving workers who have struggled to stop paying for union politics against their will.
“Union bosses have abused their extraordinary government-granted power to compel workers to fund their political activities unless workers object – a power granted no other private organization in our country – for far too long,” said Mark Mix, president of National Right to Work. “The First Amendment right of workers who refrain from union membership to automatically not pay union dues at all, especially for politics, is long overdue.”
The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is a nonprofit, charitable organization providing free legal aid to employees whose human or civil rights have been violated by compulsory unionism abuses. The Foundation, which can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-336-3600, assists thousands of employees in more than 250 cases nationwide per year.