Unions Brace For Court Decision That Could End Forced Unionism

Published September 22, 2015

In three months, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in the potentially precedent-setting and game-changing Freidichs v California Teacher Association case.  The case was filed by California teachers who argue the compulsory union dues they are forced to pay are unconstitutional.  If the Court rules in favor of the plaintiff, Rebecca Freidichs, individual teachers would have the right to decide for themselves whether to join and support a union.

The implications of the Friedrichs case go far beyond teachers in California.  A ruling in favor of Friedrichs would essentially guarantee the right-to-work for all public employees in all 50 states.  That is why WPC has signed onto an amicus curiae brief supporting Rebecca Friedrichs and the other teachers who want the opportunity to decide whether their hard-earned dollars support a union and its political activities.

While some union executives think such a ruling  would ultimately make unions stronger by forcing them to become more responsive to members and more efficient, not every union is as optimistic about the possibility of an end to the forced-union gravy train.  Some public employee unions are preemptively exploring ways around the Court’s potential ruling ending forced unionism.

In the final hours of California’s legislative session last week, public employee unions in that state attempted a last minute “gut and amend” maneuver to sneak in language into a bill that would require a one-on-one “public employee orientation” for all newly hired and existing public employees.  A “gut and amend” removes the current contents of a bill in their entirety and replaces them with different provisions, all while bypassing the normal hearing process.

The “orientation” would be sponsored by the union and workers would be required to attend in person during work hours.  Taxpayers would pick up the tab.

In the proposed “gut and amend” language, “the content of the recognized employee organization’s presentation shall be determined solely by the employee organization and shall not be subject to negotiation.”

What is this content the union wants to make sure they have sole discretion over?  Unions want a captive audience while they try to convince (some might say pressure, even intimidate) employees to join the union and pay dues.

So unions would have access to each worker during a one-on-one “orientation,” the content of which would be the sole domain of the union and not open to negotiation, and the purpose of which would be to pressure workers into joining the union and paying dues.  All paid for by the taxpayer.

But what is good for the goose is good for the gander, as the League of California Cities and Association of California School Administrators point out: “If proponents of agency fees are allowed to urge public employees to pay them voluntarily, this provides an opportunity to anyone with opposing views to address those employees in the same manner.”

While the unions’ efforts were stymied in California, other public employee unions are likely scrambling to figure out their own creative schemes to hold onto members should the Court grant public employees the right to refuse unions and the right to work.  Stay tuned.

Erin Shannon ([email protected]) is Director of the Center for Small Business at Washington Policy Center.

An earlier version of this article appeared at http://www.washingtonpolicy.org/blog/post/unions-brace-court-decision-could-end-forced-unionism/. Reprinted with permission.