NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

California Lawsuit Threatens Forced Union Dues

July 25, 2014

A lawsuit that threatens to end forced union dues is winding its way to the Supreme Court. Larry Sand, president of the California Teachers Empowerment Network, details some of the recent litigation dealing with unions.

Two June court decisions have upset union power:

  • California judge Rolf Treu ruled that California tenure rules were unconstitutional under California's state constitution.
  • The Supreme Court ruled in Harris v. Quinn that home health care workers cannot be forced to join a union.

The Harris decision, writes Sand, was narrow. Previous Supreme Court precedent from 1977 -- Abood v. Detroit Board of Education -- upheld the requirement that public (not private) employee unions pay dues. However, Justice Alito wrote that the Abood decision was "questionable," noting that collective bargaining in the public sector is "inherently political."

While Abood required the payment of union dues from public employees, it did not require payments that go towards the unions' political agenda. However, a new lawsuit is challenging that notion, insisting that collective bargaining in the public sphere is necessarily political. The plaintiffs in Friedrichs v. CTA (a group of teachers in California) are challenging the state's requirement that teachers pay dues for collective bargaining activities, claiming that all union dues should be voluntary, not mandatory.

Sand writes that the case will likely find its way to the Supreme Court within a year or two.

Source: Larry Sand, "Will the Supreme Court End Forced Union Membership?" Heartland Institute, July 24, 2014.


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