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Supreme Court hears case that threatens finances of teacher unions

Craig Clough | January 11, 2016

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supreme courtThe U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments today in a case that could undermine the financial stability of teacher unions in California and 23 other states.

The lawsuit, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, challenges the right of states to require public sector employees to pay compulsory dues to unions doing collective bargaining on their behalf. Even employees who are not union members must pay these fees, although they are allowed to opt-out of a portion of the fees that go directly toward political activities.

The lawsuit was brought by a group of California teachers who seek to overturn the court’s previous ruling on the issue, Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, a 1977 case.

“The current fair share system is a good compromise and common sense solution, and that’s part of the argument we presented to the Supreme Court Justices today,” said CTA President Eric C. Heins, who attended the arguments, according to a CTA press release. “This case is about our students, our public schools and our country’s economic future. Providing a quality public education for every student starts with educators having the ability to come together and make decisions for their students, as well as negotiating fair wages that attract the brightest minds into our profession. Undermining the collective bargaining process undermines the middle class.”

Last week, lead plaintiff Rebecca Friedrichs and Terry Pell, president of the Center for Individual Rights, outlined their side of the case with reporter, insisting that forcing employees to pay dues to a union infringed on their rights to free speech.

“We think Abood was incorrectly decided from the beginning … but in addition to that, one thing that has changed which has brought the issue into more sort of a clearer focus is that unions have become more and more political, and it is becoming more and more clear that even the things they negotiate for in collective bargaining have a direct connection to political disputes,” Pell said on the call.

California’s teacher unions and their national affiliates have painted the case as an attempt to crush unions and their collective bargaining power.

“Make no mistake about it, this case is an attempt to shift the balance away from workers and in the favor of corporate interests,” said Heins. “That’s apparent by the wealthy special interests funding the lawsuit. This case has nothing to do with what’s good for students or working families. It only hurts the middle class at a time when working Americans are finding it harder to get by. For our students and our future, we hope the Supreme Court upholds the current law.”


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