National Consumers League

National Consumers League applauds U.S. Supreme Court decision on Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association

March 31, 2016

Contact: Cindy Hoang, cindyh@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

The National Consumers League (NCL) applauds the outcome in the critically important public sector union dues case of Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. The decision was handed down this week by the Supreme Court. The case was argued before the Court while the late Justice Antonin Scalia was still sitting, and his hostile questions signaled a sure vote against the unions. But this week the Court ended with a deadlocked 4 to 4 decision.

A ruling against the Califonia Teachers Association would have dealt public sector unions a severe blow, hampering their ability to collect fees from workers who chose not to join the union. These workers would benefit from the gains the union negotiations provide, but would have been allowed, had Friedrichs gone their way, to get out of paying dues. 

As NCL noted in an earlier statement, conservative foundations and business leaders orchestrated the effort to bring this case to a Supreme Court whose majority was–while Scalia was still sitting the Court–not favorable to unions. “This brass-knuckles campaign to weaken public sector unions is a decades-long strategy that came up short,” said Sally Greenberg, executive director of the League. “The 4-4 deadlock denied enemies of those unions that victory.”

When the case was argued in January, the Court’s conservative majority seemed ready to decide that forcing public workers to support unions they had declined to join violates the First Amendment. Justice Scalia’s death changed the balance of power in this case.

NCL appreciates the support expressed by four justices for the right of unions to collect dues from all workers who benefit from the fruits of collective bargaining. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan all voted in support of unions and of employees paying their fair share. 

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About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America's pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.