California Law Requiring Teacher Fees Left in Place by Deadlocked U.S. Supreme Court

March 29, 2016 22:54 pm · 6 comments

A California law requiring non-union teachers to pay unions a fee for the unions’ work in contract negotiations was left in place by a deadlocked U.S. Supreme Court today.

The 4-4 split of the eight justices currently on the high court resulted from the death of Justice Antonin Scalia last month.

Because the court was unable to make a decision, it left intact a 2014 ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco that upheld the California law.

The Supreme Court announced that result in a one-sentence order that referred to lower court decisions and said, “The judgment is affirmed by an equally divided court.”

The state law was challenged by 10 teachers and was known as the Friedrichs case because the lead plaintiff was elementary school teacher Rebecca Friedrichs of Orange County.

The teachers filed their lawsuit against the Burlingame-based California Teachers Association and the National Education Association based in Washington, D.C. They claimed the enforced fees violated their free speech rights.

The state law applies to other public-sector employees as well as teachers. More than 20 other states have similar laws.

In California, the fee charged by unions to non-member teachers is about 70 percent of the full union dues for members. Unions are obligated under another state law to represent all teachers in a district, including non-union members, in contract bargaining and grievance procedures.

In lower court proceedings, a federal trial judge in Southern California and the 9th Circuit said they were bound by a 1997 decision by the Supreme Court upholding a similar law in a Detroit case.

Only the Supreme Court could overturn that precedent, and the panel seemed inclined to do that when it held oral arguments on the case in January with Scalia present. But Scalia’s death left the court in a tie.

Lawyers from the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Individual Rights, which represented the teachers in its appeal, said they plan to ask the high court for a rehearing, possibly after a new court term begins in October.

CIR attorney Terry Pell said in a statement, “With the death of Justice Scalia, this outcome was not unexpected. A full court needs to decide this question and we expect this case will be re-heard when a new justice is

CTA President Eric Heins said, “Today’s ruling by the Supreme Court reaffirms that it is in the best interest of our students and our communities for educators to have a strong voice on the job.”

“Collective bargaining rights allow educators, like me, to speak up for their students on important issues such as class sizes and high-stakes standardized tests,” Hein said.

That's Mr Pugnacious to you March 30, 2016 at 4:59 AM

You can expect your kids to become stupider at an alarming rate.

CharterScoop March 30, 2016 at 6:14 AM

This is a big loss for the charter school lobby in Sacramento as the CTA is really the only thing keeping them from completely dominating the education conversation at the state level. Big money at stake (among other things). Follow California’s charter school industry at

Well.... March 30, 2016 at 8:46 AM

If they don’t pay the union dues, then they shouldn’t reap ANY of the rewards from the union negotiations! Let them bargain for their OWN salary increases, benefits etc!

Just Sayin March 30, 2016 at 9:26 AM

Great outcome!!! This is another example of people wanting something for nothing. They would have still got the benefits of Union negotiations and protection without having to help compensate the cost. I know Unions are not perfect, but they are protecting the working classes wages, benefits and working conditions. And don’t think that the Non Union workers don’t benefit from these standards being set.

Rob March 30, 2016 at 9:49 AM

IMHO – if you don’t want to join the Union – that’s fine – but then you don’t get the Union Wages and Benefits – it will be up to you to negotiate your own salary and benefits and if you get better good for you – if you don’t then that’s fine also.

People who want to get the Union Benefits without paying the Union Dues are really just Freeloaders….

Again – I am fine with not requiring them to join the Union – but then please don’t expect to get the same benefits as everyone else who did join the Union.

grah March 30, 2016 at 12:06 PM

How many public school teacher jobs are non-union?

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