High Stakes in Monday’s Supreme Court Battle


January 8, 2016 10:06AM

Pay attention to the Supreme Court this Monday as it considers Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, one of the first cases the Beacon Center’s new litigation center has proudly been a part of. Here, the Court will determine the rights of teachers who aren’t lucky enough to teach in right-to-work states like Tennessee. “Right-to-work” means unions cannot force teachers to pay union fees or be fired if they don’t. California, predictably, does not extend this right. That’s why this case matters.

Rebecca Friedrichs worked as a teacher in California for 25 years. For 14 years, she joined unions. Finally frustrated, she quit. Unions in California can’t force teachers to join, but they can still charge teachers a “fee.” The Court has previously sanctioned this practice because the fee supposedly goes to cover the cost of lobbying on behalf of labor issues (wages, class size) as opposed to politics.

Ms. Friedrichs found that she was still paying the unions that she had deliberately left and political causes she abhorred. So she sued to protect her free speech rights. You can hear her story in her own words here and here.

In approving fees in the past, the Court has misunderstood how money works. Every dollar taken from a teacher who does not support the union’s politics to spend on class size will free up a dollar to spend on something the teacher might disagree with. So unions charge fees that are close to the same amount as they charge their members. In California, that amount was 70%, all paid to a union that a teacher tried not to join. Unions can also make workers submit the cancellation paperwork every year. Imagine if every year you had to submit paperwork to not be signed up for cable. And teachers can get fired over not paying.

Collective bargaining in the public sector is always political. Government unions will always prioritize their political agendas. It is artificial to try to compartmentalize money within one organization. Teachers should have a choice whether to join and what causes to fund. Of course, everyone has a right to join if they choose. We should never touch that right. But in America, it needs to be a choice. That’s something on which we should all agree.

January 11, 2016 is a day we can become more free. Show your support with #IStandWithRebecca on Twitter.

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