‘Th’ Supreme Coort follows th’ election returns.” So said Mr. Dooley, the bartender created by cartoonist Finley Peter Dunne at the start of the 20th century. Those who follow the court today often say that nothing much has changed. Yet if the justices consider public opinion next term, it will be a straightforward decision in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, a case challenging the California “union shop” law that levies an agency fee on all teachers who refuse to join a union.
Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, defends the law on the grounds that “unions have a right to collect a fair share from the people [they] represent” regardless of whether the people want to pay, so that the AFT can “ensure that we’re able to speak for all workers.” But teacher Rebecca Friedrichs, the plaintiff, contends that collective bargaining is political speech. Thus the union shop denies her constitutional right of free speech by using her money to speak for purposes with which she disagrees.
The California law allows individual teachers to request a refund of the portion of their dues that is used to help elect candidates, lobby for union-sponsored legislation, or financially assist like-minded groups. Such costs run into hundreds of millions of dollars, nearly one-third of the dues unions ask school districts to collect. But each teacher still must pay the remaining two-thirds—the agency fee—that funds collective bargaining. Ms. Friedrichs argues that the act of bargaining with public officials is every bit as political as donating to political campaigns.
What does the public say? Judging by a recent survey, a plurality of the American public—indeed a decided majority of those with an opinion on the matter—seem to agree with Ms. Friedrichs. What’s more, an equally large share of teachers oppose the agency fees imposed upon them by California and about half of all states.
Please continue reading this article on the website of the Wall Street Journal, where it was published on July 15, 2015 as “Even Teachers Are No Fans of Forced Union Payments.”
– Paul E. Peterson and Martin R. West
Last updated July 16, 2015