Friedrichs v. Cal. Teachers Assn.: Important Free Speech Case

On Monday, the Supreme Court will hear oral argument in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, considering whether the First Amendment allows non-member public employees to be required to pay compulsory union fees.  

Under current law, public-sector unions can charge non-member public employees fees for the union's collective bargaining activities but must allow them to opt out of fees for the union's lobbying or political activities.  Many argue unions' bargaining activities are inherently lobbying and political, as they are seeking access to taxpayer funds and to influence public policy.  

Terry Pell, Counsel to Petitioner Rebecca Friedrichs, explained the case's importance for free speech rights:

[I]t is not the business of the government to trim the First Amendment rights of citizens to make it easier for unions to maximize their dues revenue. The First Amendment is clear — the government may not coerce speech, especially core political speech of the sort that is the bread and butter of public employee unions. Rebecca Friedrichs and thousands of other public employees are hopeful the Supreme Court will restore their constitutional right to decide for themselves what speech to support. 

Even if the Supreme Court strikes down the compulsory fees system, public unions will still enjoy large memberships, according to theMackinac Center for Public Policy's F. Vincent Vernuccio: “The sky is not going to fall. As we’ve seen in right-to-work states across the country, union members who see the value in their unions continue to support it.”