Today, the Supreme Court granted certiorari, and thereby agreed to hear an appeal, in a case titled Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. Friedrichs raises questions regarding whether and under what circumstances agency fee is constitutional in the public sector. Agency fee has been deemed constitutional since the Supreme Court’s 1977 decision in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education. Last year in Harris v. Quinn, the Supreme Court declined to overrule Abood, though it raised questions regarding its vitality. The Supreme Court will issue a decision in Friedrichs during the 2015–16 term, most likely in the spring or summer of 2016. A decision in Friedrichs could prohibit agency fee for public sector unions.
We will be watching this case closely and will keep our collective bargaining chapters informed of important developments. We are disappointed that the Supreme Court decided to hear this case. We hope for the best outcome—an affirmation from the Supreme Court of the constitutionality of charging all bargaining unit members for the costs of representing them. But we must also be prepared for an unfavorable ruling, and we will be ready to act. The best defense against an unfavorable outcome is wall-to-wall membership, and the best preparation for an uncertain future is to build strong unions that can stand up for public higher education for the common good.
The Supreme Court's decision to hear this case demonstrates that we must effectively engage all of our members, so they understand the importance of collective bargaining in protecting academic freedom, shared governance, and economic security. In addition, we need to continue building alliances and working with other unions and organizations that share our values, and we must become more active in the political arena.
We will continue to work on these goals with you. The AAUP and AAUP-CBC will stand with all of labor in supporting union democracy. In addition, we will work with other unions to contribute to arguments, including amicus briefs, that support the constitutionality of agency fee.
Rudy Fichtenbaum, President, AAUP
Howard Bunsis, Chair, AAUP-CBC