August 24, 2015

Will the Supreme Court value individual rights over public employee unions?

By Deborah J. La Fetra Senior Attorney

One of the big cases of this Supreme Court term is Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, which will decide if public employee unions can garnish non-union workers’ wages to pay for activities ostensibly related to collective bargaining without the workers’ affirmative consent.  As we’ve noted in previous blog posts, everything a public employee union does is inherently political, and workers have a First Amendment right to retrain from subsidizing the unions’ politicking.  This week, SCOTUSblog is running a symposium about the case.  Here’s a sample of my contribution:

“Given government’s monopolistic status, public-employee unions are in a unique position to exert more coercion and intimidation against dissenting workers than are private-sector workers, who can more easily find other jobs, if need be.  Public-employee unions are also in a uniquely powerful position to influence the adoption of public policies, which means that government workers who don’t agree with their union’s leadership are less able to obtain redress in the political arena.  But most fundamentally, the difference between public- and private-sector unions is that public-sector bargaining is a political process, directly involving the whole public, that concerns the allocation of scarce taxpayer government resources.  It is an inherently political activity.  That is why all of the Court’s attempts to distinguish public-employee union collective bargaining from other types of political and ideological activities have proven illusory.  No such logical distinction ever did, or can, exist.”

Read the whole thing here.

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