Editor’s Note: Keep up fight for worker freedom

Ingrid Jacques
The Detroit News

Teachers and other public employees who had hoped the Supreme Court would allow them to skip paying fees as a condition of employment got another rejection from the court last week.

The High Court denied a petition from California teachers to rehear their case. In March, the court issued a one-line 4-4 decision — split following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, who had been expected to side with the teachers in the case.

Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association had the potential to turn union operations on their head by ending the practice of agency fees, which are demanded of public employees who opt out of paying full union dues. In the case of the California teachers, they have to pay about $650 a year in agency fees to keep their jobs. If the court had ruled in favor of these teachers, it would have extended right-to-work protections to public employees in the 24 states that haven’t passed these laws. Michigan’s right-to-work law went into effect in 2013.

The nine teachers in this case, led by Rebecca Friedrichs, didn’t think that it was fair for them to be forced to pay these fees, which they believed were a violation of their First Amendment rights.

Collective bargaining, which agency fees support, is “inherently political,” they argued; plus, it is hard to distinguish between money spent on contracts and what is spent on the union’s overt political activities.

This case may have run its course, but it’s not the end of the fight. Similar cases involving public employee unions are moving through the lower courts, and it’s likely one of them will land before the Supreme Court.