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HomeIllinois NewsProtecting Teachers’ First Amendment Rights: Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association

Protecting Teachers’ First Amendment Rights: Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association



On January 11, the Supreme Court heard a challenge to the requirement that government employees, such as public school teachers, pay fees to the local union even if they have chosen not to join the union. In Abood v. Detroit Board of Education (1977), the Supreme Court first upheld “agency shop” arrangements, where government employees who don’t join a union pay an agency fee for a “fair share” of the union’s collective bargaining costs. The Court determined that unions may not spend nonmembers’ agency fees on “ideological activities unrelated to collective bargaining.” In recent years, the Court has questioned the validity of Abood for imposing a “significant impingement” on an employee’s First Amendment free speech and association rights. Now a group of California teachers are asking the Court to overrule Abood, arguing that public-sector collective bargaining is political speech that cannot be distinguished from lobbying and that compelling them to subsidize it violates the First Amendment.


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  1. I agree with the teachers. I never liked that my teachers union dues were used in ways that did not represent my ideology, but I was forced to pay them. As a sidelight, I paid my dues for 20+ years, and upon retirement found that I did not receive insurance benefits. When I asked the union to represent me and argue for the benefit, the representative for my MN Teachers union refused, stating it was a contractual issue, caused by a negotiations loop-hole. My question to him was, “what have my dues been used for, if not to discover loop-holes that effect teachers livelihood in retirement?” I got no response, and currently pay for my health insurance, which heavily impacts my retirement benefit.