Editor’s Note: Forced union fees should be tossed

Ingrid Jacques
The Detroit News

The Supreme Court heard arguments Monday in a case that has the potential to deal a serious blow to public sector unions. It has teachers unions — and pretty much all other government unions — circling the wagons.

The case, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, was brought by teachers in California who argue their free speech rights are undermined by being forced to financially support the political activities and collective bargaining of unions.

In most of the 25 states that aren’t right to work, if public employees want out of the union, they must still pay a hefty agency fee. That amount is only slightly less than regular dues, and it’s supposed to cover only the costs of collective bargaining. But it most likely also supports the political arms of unions. That’s why the California teachers are fighting agency fees. If the court rules in support of the teachers, it will reverse its 1977 decision in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education that upheld agency fees.

Unions are frantic because the case has the potential to seriously undermine their funding stream and would in effect make right to work universal across the states for public sector employees.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten tweeted last week: “Friedrichs isn’t just an attack on unions. It’s an attack on democracy.” She was quoting from an article by Rick Kahlenberg, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation.

Yet what seems like the real attack on democracy is requiring individuals to fund political activities they don’t support.