Earlier last week, the US Supreme Court agreed to hear a case against the California Teachers Association in an effort to decide whether teachers and other public employees will be required to pay fees to unions in order to be represented.
If the plaintiffs in the Friedrichs v. CTA case come out successful, the financial strength of the CTA and other public employee unions could be threatened, as all union dues would become voluntary.
The lawsuit, filed by ten teachers in California and the conservative teachers group Christian Educators Association International, argues that their First Amendment rights are in violation by requiring mandatory fees, reports John Fensterwald in The Huffington Post. Plaintiff and teacher Rebecca Friedrichs says it is not about getting something for nothing, but instead having the choice not to support an organization they disagree with.
“This case is about the right of individuals to decide for themselves whether to join and pay dues to an organization that purports to speak on their behalf,” Terry Pell, president of the Center for Individual Rights, which brought the case on behalf of the teachers, said in a statement Tuesday. “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.”
According to Connor Wolf for The Daily Caller, the lawsuit began when Friedrichs discovered members of the California Teachers Association (CTA) received benefits at a cost to their students. However, when she tried to leave the union, she found that she would be required to continue to pay into it. “Unions, like any group, should have to earn members,” she added.
The plaintiffs are seeking an overturn of the Court’s ruling from the 1977 Abood v. Detroit Board of Education case, which allowed states to require public employees to decline to join a union in order to avoid “agency” or “fair-share” fees. Those fees go toward covering the local union’s costs concerning negotiations of workplace conditions, pay and benefits, while another portion goes to the CTA and the National Education Association to cover expenses associated with lobbying in Sacramento and Washington, DC.
In a joint statement with the presidents of the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, CTA President Eric Heins said, “We are disappointed that at a time when big corporations and the wealthy few are rewriting the rules in their favor, knocking American families and our entire economy off balance, the Supreme Court has chosen to take a case that threatens the fundamental promise of America – that if you work hard and play by the rules you should be able to provide for your family and live a decent life.”