On January 11th the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments on Friedrichs v. CTA, which is a case about teachers having to pay union dues to keep their jobs. The Alaska Policy Forum signed on to an Amicus Brief to the court. The basis of this case is the First Amendment right to Free Speech and Association. That is, should teachers be required to pay “agency fees” even after they opt out of the union?
In Anchorage a member of the teachers union (AEA) total dues would be $1,038, and $345.07 of that would go toward political activities and candidate support. But an AEA member can opt out of the political fee under the U.S. Supreme Court decision (Hudson v. Chicago Teachers Union). What gets very fuzzy is the amount of dues being used for political purposes. Note that even though an AEA member opts out of the political fee, that member must still pay what is called the agency fee. This is because the AEA union has “exclusive representation” in its contract which means no on else, including an individual teacher, can negotiate a contract with the school district.
Not only that, but the union member must opt out every year. When you discontinue some of your cable TV channels, do you have to opt out each and every year? And to make it even more difficult, the member must opt out during a very narrow window during the school year. Sometimes this window is only 2 weeks and it changes the opt out month every year. Try to follow the bouncing ball! If one misses the opt out window, then too bad you pay the full amount of dues.
The crux of the Friedrichs case is that this system of mandatory agency fees violates First Amendment rights of Free Speech and Association because the opt-out members are forced to support the union even if they are not forced to be a member.