Heartland Institute Experts Comment on Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association Case Before Supreme Court

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Heartland Institute Experts Comment on Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association Case Before Supreme Court

David Applegate

This is a First Amendment case, pure and simple.

The U.S. Supreme Court today heard arguments in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. At issue is a 1977 Supreme Court decision that allows public employee unions to collect dues to cover the cost of negotiating contracts, or “fair share fees,” even if the employee chooses to opt out of the union. The outcome of the case could impact not only teachers unions, but police, firefighters, and other public unions throughout the country.

The following statements from education policy experts at The Heartland Institute – a free-market think tank – may be used for attribution. For more comments, refer to the contact information below. To book a Heartland guest on your program, please contact Director of Communications Jim Lakely at jlakely(at)heartland(dot)org and 312/377-4000.

“What’s portrayed as a battle between pro-union and anti-union forces in Friedrich v. California Teachers Association is actually a much more fundamental fight for the First Amendment freedoms of all Americans, including those who happen to work for the government.

“Currently many states force certain classes of government employees either to join a union or to pay to the union so-called ‘agency fees’ that often approximate the amount of the union dues themselves. By doing so, states and unions deprive unwilling workers of their First Amendment rights to oppose union views on political issues, compel unwilling workers to support the union’s political views, and impose what the Supreme Court has called the most ‘egregious’ form of First Amendment infringement – viewpoint discrimination.

“To be sure, government unions and pro-union politicians foresee the potential weakening of their current built-in campaign financing system, but that is ancillary to the real battle here. This is a First Amendment case, pure and simple.”

David L. Applegate
Policy Advisor, Legal Affairs
The Heartland Institute

David Applegate is lead counsel and principal author of an amicus brief in support of Rebecca Friedrichs on behalf of Kaneland, Illinois, Unified School District #302 Administrative Support Staff, and Governor Bruce Rauner of the State of Illinois.

“The Freidrichs case offers the Supreme Court an important opportunity to shed decades of bad economics and bad education policy. It is time for doctrines enshrined in cases like Abood to be overturned. Non-union employees should be free to contract individually, and therefore not be bound by union contracts. If they find the union contract to be better, they can then opt to pay fees to the union. Opt-in should be an individual decision of the employee, not an automatic withholding to benefit the union.

“The same concept goes double for the issue of subsidization for union politicking. No employee, union or independent, should be automatically enrolled in paying for the union’s political agenda. Employees should be exempt from any automatic payment for political activity.”

Bruno Behrend
Senior Fellow, Education Policy
The Heartland Institute

“The normal rule in First Amendment cases is that the state cannot force people to contribute to private organizations that promote views the contributors do not share. There is one exception: The U.S. Supreme Court has allowed the state (in this case, California) to require public school teachers to contribute to the teachers’ union. California argues this coercion is justified because all workers benefit from the collective bargaining.

“Yet the Supreme Court does not accept that argument in all other cases. For example, the American Bar Association lobbies for rules that may benefit all lawyers, but the state cannot force me to pay ABA dues. The local PTA may have a fund-raiser to support the local grade school library, which benefits my children, but the state cannot force me to pay dues to the PTA.

“California argues that the teachers also should pay the portion of the union dues that relate to collective bargaining. Yet many of the teachers oppose the positions the teachers’ union takes. The union fights for seniority, while some teachers support merit pay.

“It is time for the Supreme Court to end this anomaly in the Court’s First Amendment jurisprudence.”

Ronald D. Rotunda
The Doy & Dee Henley Chair and Distinguished Professor of Jurisprudence
Chapman University

The Heartland Institute is a 32-year-old national nonprofit organization headquartered in Arlington Heights, Illinois. Its mission is to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems. For more information, visit our Web site or call 312/377-4000.

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