Unions Survive Supreme Court Challenge from Christian Teachers

Fight for freedom of association could have eliminated collective bargaining.

As the cost of living skyrockets in Silicon Valley, veteran middle school teacher Rick Schertle relies on the teachers’ union to advocate for the salary and benefits needed for his family of four to get by in San Jose.

So Schertle, along with 325,000 teachers in California and millions of public employees across the country, let out a sigh of relief after the US Supreme Court deadlocked today, allowing unions to continue to levy bargaining power by charging non-members.

The legal challenge to the status quo came from teachers with Christian Educators Association International (CEAI), a member of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability. Schertle identifies as an evangelical himself, but didn’t share the plaintiffs’ views on the union.

“We get worn down just trying to fight for the basics. If collective bargaining were taken away or weakened, I don’t know where we’d go,” said Schertle, who pays $3,500 a year out-of-pocket for medical costs not covered by the state’s insurance plan.

In Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, several teachers belonging to CEAI argued that requiring non-members to pay to cover unions’ collective bargaining efforts violates the First Amendment. The Christian group disagrees with the statewide union’s policies on social issues; they believe that even if union funding doesn’t go toward political activity, it represents a form of “compelled speech,” which violates CEAI members’ freedom of speech and association.

While employers can’t force a teacher to become a member, teachers’ unions in California and 20 other states charge non-members “agency fees” or “fair share fees” ...

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