Friedrichs: SCOTUS declines to recognize public employee right to avoid union fees

Abood abides: a 4-4 Supreme Court split leaves in place earlier precedent providing that public employees can be required to pay union “agency fees” spent on activities of which they may not approve. Cato reactions: Trevor Burrus (“The lack of a blockbuster decision in Friedrichs is one of the most significant immediate consequences of Scalia’s death”), Jason Bedrick (“Not only do agency fees violate the First Amendment rights of workers by forcing them to financially support inherently political activities with which they may disagree (as my colleague Ilya Shapiro and Jayme Weber explained), but the unions often negotiate contracts that work against the best interests of the workers whose money they’re taking.”). Bonus: Charles C.W. Cooke (NEA president’s “Orwellian” words on case). Earlier here.


  • The strategy now needs to be to force the unions to justify their allocations in court, make 1983 claims where there is fraud or excessive salaries etc. Or generally to make “as applied” challenges.

    For example, let’s say a union uses thug tactics–how can that union be trusted to represent the interests of non-members? And if it reasonably cannot be trusted to represent the interests of non-members, then the Abood bargain doesn’t work for that particular union. And, oh by the way, non-members shouldn’t have to subsidize litigation about those issues, as that’s a violation of the First Amendment.

    In other words, pick obvious bad actors, argue they cannot live up to the Abood bargain.

  • We ALL pay for stuff we don’t like. It is called taxes. This is just a different form of taxation. If, indeed, the NEA is acting against teacher interests, the teachers have two choices: decertify the union or co-opt it from within. I have as little sympathy for these free-riders as I do people who oppose wars complaining about the use of their tax money for defense.

    This is one of the costs of living in a society. Anarchy over society, that seems to be the choice the plaintiff’s in this case seem to be advocating.

    • Allan, how are people whose interests are NOT protected free-riders? And this isn’t a tax.

    • “I have as little sympathy for these free-riders as I do people who oppose wars complaining about the use of their tax money for defense.”

      They aren’t “free-riding” if they are paying. It’s true that they don’t WANT to pay. But many of them don’t want the benefits of the union either. They’re only “riding” at all because you force them.

      it’s perfectly legitimate to oppose our current level of defense spending.

      “Anarchy over society, that seems to be the choice the plaintiff’s in this case seem to be advocating.”

      Are you trying to argue that a union is a government?

      • No. The union is not an anarchy. But the argument in this case applies equally to taxes and logically leads to anarchy.

        • Oops. The union is not a government…

        • But it only applies equally to taxes if the union actually has the legal ability to make them pay. And the workers have every right to go to court to determine whether the union does have that ability, and if they lose the case they have every right to go to the legislature and say that if the unions do have that ability, they shouldn’t.

          We can’t just form ad-hoc bodies with the effective power of taxation whenever we feel like it. The AARP might claim to represent older Americans, but even if they have a majority of them, that shouldn’t mean that everyone over 55 has to join. If that means some people “free-ride” by benefiting from elderly-friendly laws that they didn’t help pay for lobbying, or they benefit from senior discounts, so be it. Or if AAA doubled their membership and got a majority of drivers, that shouldn’t mean that all drivers should have to pay them.

    • If they personally don’t think the union is acting in their best interests, it is rather disingenuous to call them free-riders.

  • If I disagree with the entire concept of public sector unions, how does that make me an anarchist? Why should tax money be spent negotiating whether my desk should be on this side of the cubicle or that? Seriously, we went through a 2 year appeal on terms for the contract when the manager said he was willing to sign the previous contract… I realize that both sides want that incrimental change, but really? HR is better employed processing new hires, insuring my sf-50 is entered in the system and that my appraisals are done on time. After all, I need the last two documents to apply for that job for which they should be vetting applicants… 😀