Public sector workers on the state level could be granted the choice of whether to join a union if the U.S. Supreme Court decides to hear an upcoming case.
The high court is expected to decide by the end of April whether to hear Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. The case argues public sector workers, such as teachers, should have the right to decide whether they want to join a union or pay union fees. This would include agency fees, which require non-union workers to pay for collective bargaining costs.
The case was brought by ten California teachers with support from the Center for Individual Rights.
Patrick J. Wright, director at the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation, argued that workers, including government workers, should have the right to decide whether they want to join a union, adding:
You should not have to pay agency fees. Public sector workers should have right-to-work as a matter of constitutional law.
Wright also argued against claims that such a ruling would destroy unions. Looking at states like Michigan, which passed a right-to-work law, he noted a high percentage of workers still are becoming union members. Wright said that the problem is simply giving workers the choice.
Policy experts and organizations are already beginning to submit reports and opinions to the Supreme Court for consideration during the case. Parties outside the case are allowed to provide relevant information in the form of an amicus brief. In its own amicus brief, Mackinac argued:
There is not an inextricable link between exclusive representation and an agency fee. This can be shown by circumstantial and empirical evidence from Michigan and the rest of the nation.
A brief submitted by the National Right to Work Foundation urged the court to take up the case and rule in favor of the ten teachers. In a press release, the organization noted the case could provide grounds to overturn Abood v. Detroit Board of Education while expanding rights granted under Harris v. Quinn. In Abood, the court allowed unions to continue to require agency fees, while in Harris certain government contractors like home care workers were allowed to leave their unions and stop paying agency fees:
This case is also a suitable vehicle for declaring un-constitutional union requirements that nonmembers object to the seizure of nonchargeable fees in order not to pay those fees. These ‘opt-out’ requirements are intrinsically unlawful because unions lack the lawful authority to seize nonchargeable fees from nonmembers in the first place.
This report, by Katie Frates, was cross-posted by arrangement with the Daily Caller News Foundation.