The constitutionality of “fair share” provisions, requiring non-members covered by public-sector collective bargaining agreements to pay union fees, will be reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court. Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, No. 14-915.

In Friedrichs, ten California teachers and the Christian Educators Association International sued the California Teachers Association, the National Education Association, and others, for requiring public school teachers, as a condition of employment, either to join the union representing teachers in their district or pay the equivalent of dues to that union — a “fair share” fee — for union bargaining services.

In 1977, the Supreme Court held in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education that such fees are constitutional “insofar as the service charges are applied to collective-bargaining, contract administration, and grievance-adjustment purposes.” The plaintiffs in Friedrichs seek affirmative answers to two questions:

  1. Whether Abood v. Detroit Bd. of Ed., 431 U.S. 209 (1977), should be overruled and public-sector “agency shop” arrangements invalidated under the First Amendment.
  2. Whether it violates the First Amendment to require that public employees affirmatively object to subsidizing nonchargeable speech by public-sector unions, rather than requiring that employees affirmatively consent to subsidizing such speech.

In its 2014 decision in Harris v. Quinn, the Court invalidated an Illinois statute requiring home-based personal care providers to support a union financially that has a collective bargaining relationship with the State where the care providers do not wish to join or support the union. The Court there said the “Abood Court’s analysis is questionable on several grounds.”

Unions did not welcome the Court’s decision to take up Friedrichs. In a joint statement subtitled, “Lawsuit Seeks to Curtail Freedom of Firefighters, Teachers, Nurses, First-Responders to Stick Together and Advocate for Better Public Services, Better Communities,” the leaders of the National Education Association, American Federation of Teachers, California Teachers Association, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, and Service Employees International Union wrote:

“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. . . .

“America can’t build a strong future if people can’t come together to improve their work and their families’ futures. Moms and dads across the country have been standing up in the thousands to call for higher wages and unions. We hope the Supreme Court heeds their voices.”