SCOTUS To Hear Friedrichs, Doomsday For Teachers Unions Or A Mixed Bag For Schools? Or Both?

In its next term the Supreme Court will hear Friedrichs v. California Teachers association a cleverly constructed case that threatens to undo today’s agency fee structure and dramatically weaken teachers unions. Simplistic takes of how good or bad this will be – and the unions seem likely to lose – miss how complicated it will be for the operation of schools and education more generally. I look at all that today in a column in U.S. News & World Report:

By this time next year, everyone in the education world cheering the Supreme Court’s progressivism on health care and gay marriage may be singing a different – and sadder – tune. In its next term, the court will hear cases that could end affirmative action in higher education and curtail the power of teachers unions and other public employee unions. This latter case, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, could dramatically weaken teachers unions and scramble the education landscape. The prospect of a defanging of the unions has many in education hopeful after the court agreed to take the case earlier this week. In practice, though, the ramifications of Friedrichs are not so straightforward.

You can read the entire piece here – no agency fee required just click here for USN’s Report. Tell me why you think a post-Friedrichs world will be all Eden-like or horrible on Twittter @arotherham.

Also, check out Bellwether’s Kaitlin Pennington with more on why this case matters at Ahead of the Heard.

4 Replies to “SCOTUS To Hear Friedrichs, Doomsday For Teachers Unions Or A Mixed Bag For Schools? Or Both?”

  1. In These Times has a pro labor/teacher union take on this issue:

    In April 2013, the right-wing Center for Individual Rights (CIR), whose mission is to “aggressively litigate and publicize a handful of carefully selected cases that advance the right of individuals to govern themselves according to the natural exercise of their own reason,” filed such a suit on behalf of a handful of California teachers and a Christian educator organization. The case then began its race to the Supreme Court.

    In federal district court, the CIR took the unusual step of filing a motion arguing that the court should rule in favor of the union. The group did this because they knew that the law is not on their side: Under current Supreme Court precedent, the CIR would lose in front of a California judge, since the district court must follow the law. But CIR is banking on the Supreme Court changing the law. The District Court obliged them by ruling for the union, which allowed the CIR to quickly appeal the case to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. At the Ninth Circuit, the CIR took the same tack, asking the court to quickly rule in favor of the union so it could get the case before the Supreme Court.

    This week, approximately a year and a half after the complaint was first filed in district court, the CIR filed its petition to the Supreme Court. Though the Court may decide not to accept Friedrichs if four justices do not vote to hear it, this case looks like exactly the sort that Justice Alito could use to finally usher in a national public right-to-work law from the bench.

    In its petition to the Supreme Court, the CIR asks the Court to rule on two related First Amendment questions: (1) whether the agency shop (a workplace that permits fair-share fees) should be ruled unconstitutional under the First Amendment, and (2) whether it violates the First Amendment to require public employees who don’t want to join their unions to opt out rather than requiring everyone to opt in.

    The petition then proceeded to rehash the old argument that all the bargaining issues for public sector unions are inherently political, and therefore all such workers should be under a right-to-work model. In essence, the CIR argues that any bargaining for increases in worker pay or benefits, or negotiations over work conditions, are inherently ideological issues that not all workers may agree on, and such negotiations are identical to lobbying.

    Therefore, because money is equivalent to speech in the Supreme Court’s view, workers who have to pay a fair-share fee are being compelled to lobby the government on an issue they may disagree with.

  2. Next stop:

    The Realtors Assocation.
    The American Medical Association.
    The Nurses Assocation
    The AMA
    The ADA
    The Military where members are entitled to free legal representation.
    The powerful monopolists in this country and their children who will never see a day away from the reins of power.
    The Beer Wholesale Distributor Assocation.
    The Mortgage broker Association.

    According to the NBER, there are thousands of state and nationwide associations that BARGAIN for tax subsidies, operating conditions, and protection for their product and labor markets. All of this done under the guise of protecting jobs and the American way of opportunity.

    At the top of this list is the army of lobbyists and policy hangers-on who will never see a day outside the circle of privilege or have to actually do something for this country that may be inconvenient.

    Want to see unions? They are called associations or working groups or non-profits.

    Anything that lobbies for:
    1. Working/operating financials
    2. Control of product or labor markets.
    3. Tax credits or subsidies
    4. Anti-union or pro-union labor policies


    In CA. you can add your local barber or beautician to that list. You can also add your accountant. You can also add your local gas station. Also add those farmers, or the farm workers, or state politicians and their aides. Gerrymandering is labor market protection and barrier and that is the pure function of a union.

    Associations are the NEW unions and the damage and inefficiencies they have cause in labor and product markets is in the trillions of dollars per year.

    Most labor belongs to an association. And that makes them a UNION.

  3. If we count association membership in the private sector, the damage it has done to labor and product markets far exceeds that of public sector unions by 2 magnitudes.

    I have no problem eliminating public sector unions as a matter of principle. But it will NOT fix a thing.

    In fact, it will push the unionization of charters. And since they are PRIVATE, or at least DEMAND TO BE PRIVATE, that could be a whole new can of worms for the edu-reform movement.

    No one really cares that the SCOTUS does not understand the free rider principle. Pretty much we are on the precipice of calling anything we do not like a violation of the First Ammendment: In fact the next progressive tactic is to threaten and intimidate those who disagree with them with some new crazy theory about first amendment violations.

    I support Friedrichs, but out of a sense of fair play and decency, what she taught her little charges, she ought to:

    1. Cough up the NPV of any pay raises (adjusted for union wages).
    2. Set back her retirement to pre-union negotiated wages.
    3. Refuse her defined benefit retirement plan and accept a simple lump sun pay out for her 25 years in a kindergarden classroom.

    I support her in principle, but not out of a sense of decency. She IS a free rider and a self promoter. She is the person who cuts in line at the theater or cuts you off on the 405. She is what she is: Selfish, small minded, and full of herself.

    One has to wonder if she stewed on this issue while young minds cried out in her classroom for stimulation and rescue from the inevitable servitude to the arrogant rich.

    Just a though here: If recent NBER research is showing that unions confer upon teacher membership a 15-20% wage advantage, how can the public policy groups advocate for this lady?

    How can they say that union dues far exceeded the long years of benefits of that wage premium in terms of life savings and teacher retirement?

    Can you guys EVER consistently cite your own research?

  4. one major difference…

    outside of some state bar associations, you can’t require employees to pay a service fee to the association just to remain employed in the sector itself. that’s the key difference with teachers unions in non-RTW states. any individual who wants to work as a teacher in a non-RTW state is required to pay money to the NEA/AFT that has won exclusive representation in their district. a lot of that money may go to negotiate public policies with which the employee-teacher disagrees. that’s hardly democratic, esp. considering that many of these certification elections took place 40 years ago.

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