On Monday, January 11, 2016, as protestors rallied outside, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. Teacher Rebecca Fiedrichs and eight other California teachers contend “fair share” fee requirements violate the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. They asked the Court to overturn a 1977 decision upholding the constitutionality of fair share agreements.

Under Ohio law, public employees covered by union contracts may opt out of paying any fees that go toward the political activities of their union. However, these dissenting bargaining unit members must pay a fee to cover collective bargaining costs. Similar to laws in other states, including California, these provisions are at issue in the case brought by Friedrichs and her co-plaintiffs.

The ability of public sector unions to collect fair-share fees from workers who have chosen not to join the union but who benefit from the union’s representation activities is the heart of the issues before the Court. By law, public sector unions must negotiate on behalf of all bargaining unit members, union members and non-members alike, who benefit from the wages, benefits and other protections bargained by the union. Unions argue that without fair share fees, its financial wherewithal would be negatively impacted, thus disrupting labor relations in public schools. Fair-share fee opponents say that eliminating the requirement for payments by non-members would only mean that unions, to maintain the level of dues it collects, would need to more effectively demonstrate the value of services it provides.