Friedrichs v. The California Teachers Association FAQ

Q: What is the case about?
Some public employees argue that agency fees are unconstitutional. They feel if they don’t agree with the union’s position on issues or at the bargaining table their freedom of speech is being violated with their fees. This is consistent with previous decisions that say money is speech.

Q: What will happen if the Supreme Court rules against the union?
If the Court agrees with Rebecca Friedrich and her colleagues, then there will be an end to agency shop. That will mean those in a bargaining unit can choose to be a member or non-member. Non-members will not have to pay anything. If a great number of members choose to leave the union and pay nothing towards representation there will be a loss of bargaining power, union services and the potential that the employer could decertify the union.

Q: What is the question about opting in rather than opting out of paying for political expenses?
Friedrich and the others are also challenging the way represented workers challenge their dues amount. Currently, if you don’t wish to have a portion of your dues go to support political activity then you must follow a process to opt out of this contribution. Friedrichs argues that we should assume all do not want to contribute and allow them to opt in to pay the additional amount. It should be noted that the political activity in question is all non-chargeable expenses including organizing, member benefits, political action and anything else deemed as not directly impacting the terms and conditions of employment. For CSEA that is nearly 40% of agency fees.

Q: Why would we have to represent workers who don’t pay anything?
Law, supported by court cases, makes a balance between “exclusive bargaining agent” rights and the obligation to represent all workers (members and non-members) in a bargaining unit. When a group of workers come together to form a Union to improve working conditions, the Union formed represents those workers exclusively – no other union is permitted to represent that group of workers at the same time. Therefore the Union is obligated to represent all the workers within the bargaining unit.
Without exclusive representation, there could be multiple unions representing workers in the same workplace holding the same titles. Not only would such an arrangement be inefficient, it would pit unions against one another instead of against the boss, and it would erode the union’s bargaining power, resulting in weaker contract and less benefits.

Q: Is there a way to appeal or pass state legislation to get around the decision?
The Supreme Court is the end of the road for appeals. Once having a case in front of them their decision is final. If they decide agency shop fees are unconstitutional there is no state law that could replace that process as it currently exists. Supreme Court Justices are appointed by the President and approved by Congress for life terms. They are not targets for lobbyists.

Q: When will there be a decision?
The Court held oral arguments on January 11, 2016 . The decision could be released at any time but most followers of the Court believe it will come out around the June 30, 2016 end of session.

Q: When would the impact of the decision take effect?
Because the question in this case is about constitutionality, any changes to the status quo would occur immediately.