U.S. Supreme Court to Tackle Mandatory Union Fees Case in Early 2016

The U.S. Supreme Court will decide the Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association case during the current term. The case challenges labor rules in 23 states that require government workers to pay sizable fees to unions they do not wish to join.

Known as “fair share fees,” since these payments benefit all bargaining unit employees, including union non-members based upon the union’s collective bargaining and enforcement efforts. The California Teachers Association argued to the Supreme Court that fees such as these are crucial “to avoid labor strife, to secure economic stability, [and] to ensure the efficiency and continuity of state and local governments.”

In 1977, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education that a Michigan law which required teachers to pay the union’s “agency fee,” even if they were opposed to the union, was constitutional.  The Supreme Court’s rationale in 1977 for allowing the fees was to help promote labor peace and prevent non-members from “free riding,” since the union had a legal duty to represent all workers.  Unions have for decades recieved a consistent revenue stream from non-members because of the Abood case.

The lead plaintiff in the pending case is Rebecca Friedrichs, a California public school teacher who says she resigned from the California Teachers Association because the CTA takes positions that “are not in the best interests of me or my community.”  She says she is still required to pay the union about $650 a year to cover bargaining costs.  According to labor leaders and other experts, a ruling in favor of the teachers challenging the fees could drain the finances of all unions representing teachers, firefighters and other government workers.  Watch for MBM updates regarding the outcome of this case and the potential impact that it may have on Districts.