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Court Poised to Strike Down Union Agency Fees for Public Employees?

Gerald Lutkus

Gerald F. Lutkus

Of Counsel (Retired)

The U.S. Supreme Court, in argument on Jan. 11, from all accounts appears poised to strike down its prior decision in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education and conclude that mandatory agency fees paid by public employees to unions that represent them are unconstitutional. In Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, the petitioners contend that mandatory fair share dues to cover the cost of collective bargaining and other representational activities violate the free-speech rights of nonunion workers.  Chief Justice John Roberts summarized the issue similarly: "The problem that's before us is whether or not individuals can be compelled to support political views that they disagree with.” The case, which poses a significant threat to the funding of public employee unions in the 20 states that allow so-called fair share fees, has generated substantial interest and coverage. The SCOTUS Blog is an excellent stepping off point to review coverage of the case. Court watchers are suggesting that Friedrichs will overturn Abood not only because of the tone of the questioning during argument but in large part because of the Court’s 2014 decision in Harris v. Quinn in which the Court’s 5-4 majority wrote of Abood and its “questionable foundations.”


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