On June 30, 2015, the Supreme Court decided to revisit whether the First Amendment permits the government to compel its employees to financially support a union by granting certiorari in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, No. 14-915. In Friedrichs, the Court will consider whether to overrule Abood v. Detroit Board of Education (1977), which held that public employees can be compelled to financially support union collective-bargaining with government, but not union political activities.
The Court’s grant of certiorari in Friedrichs comes on the one-year anniversary of its decision in Harris v. Quinn, where Court criticized Abood’s rationales, but did not overrule Abood after finding it inapplicable to the non-employee Medicaid providers who brought the case. Unlike Harris, Friedrichs squarely presents the issue decided in Abood—whether public school teachers can be required to pay compulsory union fees as condition of their employment.
The Friedrichs petitioners argue that Abood should be overturned because there is no distinction between bargaining with government and lobbying government—both are political speech. The respondent California Teachers Association, however, counters that union bargaining with government is akin to bargaining with a private employer, and that it wrongful for teachers to get a so-called “free ride” on union bargaining efforts.
Is the Court likely to overrule Abood? And what will be the implications if it does?
- Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean and Distinguished Professor of Law, University of California, Irvine
- William Messenger, Staff Attorney, National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, Inc.