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Supreme Court takes up major case challenging California union fees




A demonstrator sets up a sign during a Pink Friday protest March 13, 2009 at the Berkeley Unified School District building in Berkeley, California.
A demonstrator sets up a sign during a Pink Friday protest March 13, 2009 at the Berkeley Unified School District building in Berkeley, California.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

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The Supreme Court is now slated to revisit the issue of mandatory union fees for non-union members, a case that could portend larger changes to union structures and Democratic politics.

After a historic set of rulings over the past week, the nation’s highest court is preparing to take on more cases for its next session. Officially called Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, this suit will examine the court’s 1977 ruling in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education that established the right of unions to collect fees from non-union members who benefit from the collective bargaining process in order to pay for said process.

Proponents of the union fees cite the high cost of collective bargaining and the problem of free riders as reasons why unions need this right. Critics cite 1st Amendment freedoms protecting individuals from compelled speech.

If the court strikes down the mandatory fees for non-union members, the repercussions would abound across various industries and the political establishment. That is because the speech funded by union dues and non-union fees not only goes towards collective bargaining but into political lobbying on the local, state, and national levels. Teachers unions are among the strongest unions left in the United States, and they frequently support Democratic candidates and liberal policies throughout the political system.

Are union fees for employees who choose not to join the union fair? What will be the consequences if these fees are struck down?

Guests:

Rebecca Friedrichs, a public school teacher in Orange County who has brought on this lawsuit, and objects to supporting the California Teachers Assn.

Terry Pell, an attorney and president of The Center for Individual Rights, one of the law firms representing Ms. Friedrichs

Eric Heins, President of the California Teachers Association