The Supreme Court signaled Monday that it’s prepared to deal a major blow to public-sector unions—and may overturn one of its own precedents in the process.
Most of the justices seemed to believe that public-sector employees who don’t join a union should not have to pay fees that support the union’s negotiations. Those “agency fees,” from the unions’ perspective, are aimed at free riders—employees who benefit from the contracts unions negotiate without paying the dues that make those negotiations possible.
The Supreme Court signed off on those fees in 1977, but it has been chipping away at that ruling recently and now might be ready to overturn it altogether. And things looked decidedly bleak for unions at the Supreme Court on Monday, when the justices heard oral arguments in a lawsuit filed by a California teacher who isn’t a member of the teachers’ union and does not want to help pay for its advocacy activities.
“The union, basically, is making these teachers compelled riders,” Justice Anthony Kennedy said Monday.
Rebecca Friedrichs, the plaintiff in Monday’s case, says agency fees violated her First Amendment rights by forcing her—and other nonunionized employees—to subsidize the union’s political advocacy.