Next Monday, January 11, when the Supreme Court returns from its holiday recess, it will devote an expanded argument to a case that has made unions which represent government workers deeply fearful for their financial future and their public stature. A significant blow to their treasuries could come if non-union workers are able to turn broad hints by the Supreme Court into final victory in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association.
Since 1977, the Court has allowed public-sector unions to charge the non-members whom they represent fees to cover the cost of bargaining over working conditions that will benefit those non-members as well as the union’s own ranks on the payroll. They cannot charge a fee to cover union political activity, such as lobbying or campaign spending. But, applying a bit of elementary logic, a group of non-union teachers in California seeks to nullify even bargaining-related fees.