Concern over ‘Friedrichs’ Lessens – for Now


The Teamsters and other unions representing public sector workers received an unexpected reprieve over the weekend that will likely ensure at least in the short term that the unions will be able to continue to collect collective bargaining fees from non-members they represent.

The death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who was expected to support the plaintiffs in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, means it is likely the high court will be split on its decision. And that throws the future of the case, which the court heard Jan. 11 but had not ruled on, into disarray. 

There are multiple steps that could be taken, as The Atlantic pointed out:

“There are two possibilities. First, sometime between now and July, the Court could hand down a 4-4 decision. A tie goes to the victor in the lower court, and in this case the union won handily before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which simply applied [the 1977 Supreme Court  decision in] Abood. Second, the Court could hold the case over for re-argument once a new justice is confirmed. But the Court may be unwilling to leave Friedrichs and other close cases undecided while a confirmation battle plays out—especially because that battle seems to be shaping up to last a year or more.

“At minimum, then, Abood is nearly certain to remain good law through the 2016 election. That alone is a victory for public unions, which will not be forced to divert member dues away from political activity in the middle of a presidential-campaign season.”

Still, there is much to worry about going forward. Anti-union forces are likely to bring up Friedrichs or another similar case again. As mentioned here previously, the lawsuit is about spreading so-called right to work (RTW) more broadly and taking away the rights of workers.

Sticking up for union jobs is essential because it paves the way to a middle-class lifestyle. The median union worker makes more than $200 more a week than non-union workers. That’s why the Teamsters stressed the need for more union jobs in its “Let’s Get America Working” campaign. Workers earning more don’t just help their families; they help the economy at large as well because they spend more.

Unions need to remain vigilant!