The justices will hear a challenge from a group of California teachers who say it violates their First Amendment rights to be forced to pay dues to the state’s teachers union.
The state is one of about 20 in which public employees are required to either join the union or pay a fee to support the union’s collective-bargaining activities. The unions say this is only fair because they are required to negotiate on behalf of all workers, not just their own members.
The non-members are not required to subsidize the union’s political activities, and the Supreme Court approved such a system in 1977, turning down a challenge that it was a violation of the fee-payer’s speech and association rights. But in a 2014 case involving health-care workers from Illinois, four of the court’s conservatives signed onto an opinion from Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. that called the decades-old decision, Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, “questionable on several grounds.” Rebecca Friedrichs and other California teachers have given the majority a clear chance to overrule the precedent.