Capitol Alert

Supreme Court to hear challenge to California Teachers Association union dues

Members of security stand outside of the Supreme Court in Washington on Monday.
Members of security stand outside of the Supreme Court in Washington on Monday. AP

A challenge to the California Teachers Association will now give conservative Supreme Court justices a chance to reconsider compulsory union dues.

Setting the stage for its next potential blockbuster, the court on Tuesday said it would hear the challenge from teachers opposed to their union’s mandatory dues. The case, to be heard sometime after the court’s new term starts in October, could shake up a lot of workplaces well beyond the California classrooms.

“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,” said Terry Pell, president of the Center for Individual Rights, adding that “we are seeking the end of compulsory union dues across the nation.”

The conservative organization is helping represent Rebecca Friedrichs, a longtime teacher in the Savanna School District in Anaheim, Calif. Like her legal allies including Harlan Elrich, a teacher in the Sanger Unified School District in the state’s San Joaquin Valley, and Irena Zavala, a teacher in coastal San Luis Obispo County, Friedrichs rejects paying teacher association dues.

Under a prior Supreme Court decision, certain compulsory dues may be asssessed even on employees who won’t belong to the union. The fee is meant to support activities related to the union’s collective bargaining work.

Conservatives and some business organizations have long chafed at the so-called “agency fee,” and the 1977 decision in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education that concluded the fees did not violate the First Amendment.

Underscoring the high stakes in the new case, the leaders of the Service Employees International Union, National Education Association, American Federation of Teachers and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees joined in a common statement denouncing the court’s action.

“The Supreme Court is revisiting decisions that have made it possible for people to stick together for a voice at work and in their communities—decisions that have stood for more than 35 years—and that have allowed people to work together for better public services and vibrant communities

The case will be heard sometime after the court’s new term starts in October.

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