Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Labor bosses ask Supreme Court to rule in favor of forced union dues

By Jason Hart

Should teachers be forced to pay left-wing labor unions in order to teach? Union bosses think so, and they’re asking the Supreme Court to agree.

In legal briefs filed this month in the Rebecca Friedrichs vs. California Teachers Association case, public employee unions argued the First Amendment shouldn’t stop them from taking mandatory fees from teachers and other government workers.

The National Education Association, American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees implored the Court to stick with the precedent set in its 1977 Abood vs. Detroit Board of Education ruling.

The Abood ruling is the basis for “agency shop” contracts letting NEA, AFSCME and AFT take mandatory fees — a practice Friedrichs and her fellow plaintiffs believe violates the First Amendment by forcing them to fund political organizations.

Lawyers for NEA, CTA and several other California NEA affiliates argued “the State’s interests as employer outweigh any interference with employees’ First Amendment rights.”

NEA is the largest labor union in America. AFT and AFSCME — both members of the AFL-CIO coalition — are the nation’s third and fourth largest unions. Each stands to lose tens of millions of dollars per year if forced union fees are outlawed in the public sector.

Federal law requires unions to refund nonmembers for political activities; the Friedrichs plaintiffs consider all public union activity political, because it affects government services, government spending and government workers.

Public employee union collective bargaining, the NEA legal brief asserted, “does not resemble the wide-ranging, open, and public debate that the First Amendment traditionally protects.”

“The First Amendment interest against compelled subsidization is certainly not stronger than the interest in affirmative expression,” NEA’s lawyers wrote.

Lawyers for AFL-CIO and AFSCME made a similar argument, asking the Court to rule in favor of mandatory public-sector union fees because “the effect on employees’ First Amendment rights is limited.”

Since employees can speak out against unions in their free time, “the government’s reasonable understanding of the utility of the agency shop is sufficient to justify any impingement upon employees’ First Amendment rights,” AFL-CIO and AFSCME’s lawyers asserted.

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