New Threat To Public Sector Labor Unions, CtdPosted: December 15, 2015
Last June I wrote a post about a case that the U.S. Supreme Court had agreed to hear, which poses a serious threat to the viability of public sector labor unions. The case, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, concerns whether public employees can be forced to pay fees for the non-political activities of a labor union. I wrote:
By agreeing to review that case, the Supreme Court has accepted the petitioners’ invitation to consider overruling the court’s 1977 decision in Abood v. Detroit Education Association, which answered that question in the affirmative.
More specifically, Abood held that a public employee has a First Amendment right to refuse to support a union’s political activities, but still must pay an “agency fee,” which covers the union’s non-political activities, such as collective bargaining. This distinction prevents unionized employees from “free riding,” i.e., from enjoying the benefits of the collective bargaining process without contributing to the costs thereof.
The petitioners in Friederichs argue, however, that all public sector labor union activity is inherently political and that a public employee has a First Amendment right not be compelled to support that activity if they object to it. The Supreme Court’s decision to hear the Friederichs case suggests that at least four justices are receptive to that argument, which could be devastating to public labor unions.
The case has been scheduled for oral argument before the Supreme Court on January 11, 2016. The Obama administration has filed an amicus brief in support of the unions, asking the Supreme Court to reaffirm Abood. [I share the administration’s view that Abood should be reaffirmed.]
This is a VERY important case, but it has been flying under the media’s radar screen. Click here to read more about the case over at SCOTUSblog. And click here for an insightful discussion about the threat an adverse decision poses to our democracy in general.