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High Court Puts Friedrichs to Rest, Opponents of Union Dues Rule Fight On

Three months after an evenly divided Supreme Court deadlocked on Friedrichs v. California Teacher's Association, a lawsuit brought by a California teacher who didn't want to pay mandatory union dues, the high court announced on Tuesday (June 28) that it would not rehear the case. This leaves standing an appeals court decision, which found that requiring teachers to pay union fees doesn't violate their First Amendment rights. So the 20 "fair share" states will be allowed to continue to require all public-sector workers, even those who aren't union members, to pay union fees for the time being. 

The high court has been down a justice since the February death of Justice Antonin Scalia, who was widely predicted to be the decisive fifth vote against mandatory union dues. Senate Republicans have said they will not consider any Supreme Court nominations until after the election, in hopes that a fellow Republican prevails this November. Opponents of the appeals court decision in Friedrichs had asked the Supreme Court to revive the case and rehear it next term after a new Supreme Court justice is confirmed.

Lead plaintiff Rebecca Friedrichs, a veteran Orange County, Calif., teacher, said that the Supreme Court decision not to rehash the case represents a defeat for children, but that the fight is far from over.

"We have accomplished much and brought national attention to an issue that strikes at the heart of every American's right to free speech," said Friedrichs in a statement. "This battle for liberty cannot be abandoned, and we've built an incredible network, so I'm optimistic we can continue working together to restore First Amendment rights to teachers and other public-sector workers. Our kids are worth the fight!"

Terry Pell, the president of the Center for Individual Rights, the nonprofit law firm that represented Friedrichs and the other teachers in the case, echoed that sentiment.

"We continue to believe that forcing individuals to subsidize political speech with which they disagree violates the First Amendment," said Pell. "We will look for opportunities to challenge compulsory union dues laws in other cases and continue our efforts to stand up for the rights of teachers and public-sector workers across the country."

While public-sector unions can breathe a sigh of relief with the high court's decision to not rehear the case, mandatory dues will no doubt face future challenges. Friedrichs was just a battle in a much larger war against the pro-union Supreme Court decision in the 1977 case of Abood v. Detroit Board of Education. The National Right To Work Legal Defense Foundation is currently representing plaintiffs in five cases challenging mandatory union dues, Politico reported.

After the decision back in March, Patrick Semmens, a vice president of the foundation, issued a statement predicting that the high court would have to hear a case similar to Friedrichs soon.

"While we are disappointed that Rebecca Friedrichs' case will not be the one to end mandatory union dues for America's public servants, the fight taken up by Rebecca and her co-plaintiffs has not ended today," said Mix. "The 4-4 split in Friedrichs has no precedential legal value, we expect that the Supreme Court will reconsider the constitutionality of forced unionism before too long."


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