SCOTUS Likely to Deal Unions Drastic Blow in Union-Fee Case

January 14, 2016 6:33 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

  The Association's upcoming luncheon will feature Adam Liptak, the renowned New York Times journalist who covers the United States Supreme Court. Over the years, Liptak has provided unique insight on how the High Court operates behind the scenes. His recent article featured the case, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, No. 14-915, whose oral argument was held on Monday.

In this highly anticipated case, the California law at issue requires public employees who do not join a union to still pay fees that compensate for the costs of collective bargaining. Ten California teachers contend they have a First Amendment right not to pay the union fees. The union argues that the non-members are trying to obtain a windfall, reaping the benefits of collective bargaining without paying for its costs.

The importance of the Court's outcome in the case, Liptak noted, is that a ruling in favor of the teachers would represent a drastic blow to unions.

Liptak observed that the Court's conservative majority seemed likely to agree with the teachers. The "best" hope unions have for a ruling in their favor, Liptak said, is Justice Antonin Scalia who has been sympathetic toward them in the past. However, Liptak observed a certain sense of hostility by Justice Scalia toward unions during oral arguments, especially when he proclaimed "[t]he problem is that everything that is collectively bargained with the government is within the political sphere, almost by definition."

The liberal minority on the Court seemed focused, Liptak asserted, on a worthy reason to overturn past Supreme Court precedent, Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, which held in 1977 that forcing non-union members to pay for a union's collective bargaining efforts was constitutional.

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