Supreme Court Could End Forced Unionization For State Workers

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Public sector workers on the state level could be granted the choice of whether or not to join a union if the Supreme Court decides to hear an upcoming case.

The Supreme Court is expected to decide by the end of April whether to hear Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. The case argues public sector workers, such as teachers, should have the right to decide whether they want to join a union or pay union fees. This would include agency fees, which require non-union workers to pay for collective bargaining costs.

The case was brought by 10 California teachers with support from the Center for Individual Rights.

Patrick J. Wright, director at the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation, argued that workers, including government workers, should have the right to decide whether they want to join a union.

“You should not have to pay agency fees,” Wright told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Public sector workers should have right-to-work as a matter of constitutional law.”

Wright also argued against claims that such a ruling would destroy unions. Looking at states like Michigan, which passed a right-to-work law, he noted a high percentage of workers still are becoming union members. Wright said that the problem is simply giving workers the choice.

“We looked at the experience in Michigan,” Wright noted. “The universe didn’t implode.”

Policy experts and organizations are already beginning to submit reports and opinions to the Supreme Court for consideration during the case. Parties outside the case are allowed to provide relevant information in the form of an amicus brief.

“There is not an inextricable link between exclusive representation and an agency fee,” Mackinac argued in its amicus brief, which was obtained by TheDCNF. “This can be shown by circumstantial and empirical evidence from Michigan and the rest of the nation. Hence, Abood v. Detroit Board of Education.”

In its brief, Mackinac focused on the legality of agency fees, arguing that they should be deemed unconstitutional.

The National Right to Work Foundation also submitted an amicus brief, which urges the court to take up the case and rule in favor of the 10 teachers.

“National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys have filed a ‘friend of the Court’ brief with the U.S. Supreme Court, urging it to hear a challenge to public-sector union officials’ power to force America’s civil servants into dues-paying ranks,” NRTW detailed in a press release. “Foundation attorneys filed the brief late Friday in support of the challenge, titled Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, brought by ten California teachers supported by the Center for Individual Rights.”

NRTW noted the case could be good grounds to overturn Abood v. Detroit Board of Education while expanding rights granted under Harris v. Quinn. In Abood, the court allowed unions to continue to require agency fees while in Harris, certain government contractors like homecare workers were allowed to leave their unions and stop paying agency fees.

“This case is also a suitable vehicle for declaring un-constitutional union requirements that nonmembers object to the seizure of nonchargeable fees in order not to pay those fees,” NRTW argued in its brief, which was obtained by TheDCNF. “These ‘opt-out’ requirements are intrinsically unlawful because unions lack the lawful authority to seize nonchargeable fees from nonmembers in the first place.”

TheDCNF could not reach the California Teachers Association for comment.

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