The United States Supreme Court has refused to rehear Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association et al., in which the Court had issued a 4-4 opinion in April. Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, No. 14-915 (Mar. 29, 2016). Friedrichs sought to overrule, on First Amendment grounds, Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, a 1977 Supreme Court decision allowing public sector unions to require members and non-members to pay agency service fees (also known by the euphemism “fair share payment”), as long as workers are not forced to pay a portion of the fees that covers political or ideological activities.
The tie vote resulted in affirmance of the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruling in favor of the defendants and permitting required payment of agency service fees for nonmembers in the public sector. The plaintiffs had argued that their First Amendment rights were violated when the government, through a collective bargaining agreement, required the employees to pay an agency fee to a union whose views they did not necessarily wholly share. (Agency fees are similar in amount to the dues paid by union members.) The tie vote came about after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, who was expected to vote to overturn Abood. The Court’s decision in Friedrichs, however, is not precedential, and the Court may revisit the issue when it again has nine justices.