Today, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, which will determine whether unions can compel public employees to fund speech through collective bargaining with which they might disagree. The case could result in a landmark decision impacting the First
Amendment rights of millions of public sector workers nationwide. The RI Center For Freedom & Prosperity, which today re-published a backgrounder by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy on the case that features California teacher Rebecca Friedrichs, is urging the Supreme Court to rule in favor of the plaintiffs.
The backgrounder also cites a similar case in Westerly, Rhode Island, where five police officers are currently suing the town over their right not to be forced to pay fees to the government-designated local police union.
If the justices rule in favor of Friedrichs, the decision would not only take away government union's ability to fire public employees who choose not to pay union dues or fees in the half of the states which do not have right-to-work, but would also allow public workers to opt out of their union without needing to renew their objection every year. In Rhode Island, which is currently a non right-to-work state, the decision, which is expected in June 2016, would impact tens of thousands of public employees.
Rebecca Friedrichs and the other teacher plaintiffs argue that collective bargaining by public sector unions is inherently political. By being forced to fund collective bargaining, the plaintiffs argue, they are forced to fund political activity. In addition, they have stated that requiring agency fee payers to file for a refund of the political portion of their dues is burdensome and stops workers from exercising their rights.
"Just like students, teachers deserve school choice too," said Mike Stenhouse, CEO for the Center. "It's time for public policy that guarantees full workplace freedom for all employees in Rhode Island to be considered."
A PDF of the backgrounder can be downloaded here.