March 2, 2017
By Steven Wishnia and Neal Tepel
Santa Ana, CA - SantaThe organization behind last year’s unsuccessful attempt to outlaw the union shop for public-sector workers is trying to bring a similar case to the Supreme Court.
The Washington-based Center for Individual Rights and eight California teachers filed a lawsuit earlier this month, arguing that nonmembers having to pay “agency fees” to the unions that represent them violates their First Amendment rights. Current case law says that nonmembers can’t be required to contribute to union political activity, but have to pay for the costs of representation. The plaintiffs argue that all public-sector union activity, including bargaining for pay and benefits, is “inherently political” because it involves public funds. The court rejected a similar argument in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association last year, when it deadlocked 4-4 after the death of Antonin Scalia. But if the Senate confirms Court nominee Neal Gorsuch, he could supply the fifth vote to overturn the pro-union precedent. California Teachers Association President Eric C. Heins called the suit “a political attack” intended “to weaken all unions and the voice of working people.”