Supreme Court Will Review Whether Non-Member Union Dues are Constitutional

Published July 2, 2015

The U.S. Supreme Court will review the case of Rebecca Friedrichs, a California public school teacher objecting to the dues she is paying even though she resigned from the California Teachers Association (CTA). Friedrichs contends CTA’s use of the dues is “not in the best interests of me or my community.”

The Center for Individual Rights (CIR) is representing the plaintiffs, which stated its goal as follows:

“We are seeking the end of compulsory union dues across the nation on the basis of the free speech rights guaranteed by the First Amendment,” said Terry Pell, the CIR president.

The Supreme Court will directly confront its 1997 ruling in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, which allowed “agency shops” or “fair share” fees to be paid by nonunion members.

A related case was Harris v. Quinn (2014). The Supreme Court ruled “Non-public employees cannot be forced to pay union dues Non-public employees cannot be forced to pay union dues.” In the ruling itself, the Court wrote the following (p. 2):

The Abood Court’s analysis is questionable on several grounds. The First Amendment analysis in Hanson was thin, and Street was not a constitutional decision. And the Court fundamentally misunderstood Hanson’s narrow holding, which upheld the authorization, not imposition, of an agency fee. The Abood Court also failed to appreciate the distinction between core union speech in the public sector and core union speech in the private sector, as well as the conceptual difficulty in public-sector cases of distinguishing union expenditures for collective bargaining from those designed for political purposes. Nor does the Abood Court seem to have anticipated the administrative problems that would result in attempting to classify union expenditures as either chargeable or nonchargeable, see, e.g., Lehnert v. Ferris Faculty Assn., 500 U. S. 507, or the practical problems that would arise from the heavy burden facing objecting nonmembers wishing to challenge the union’s actions. Finally, the Abood Court’s critical “labor peace” analysis rests on the unsupported empirical assumption that exclusive representation in the public sector depends on the right to collect an agency fee from nonmembers. (pp. 8–20)

CIR claims it represents “ten California teachers and the Christian Educators Association International.” CIR saidCollective bargaining is inherently political,” and “Political opt-out is burdensome.

The Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments in the fall and rule by June 30, 2016.