Saturday, October 24, 2015

Supreme Court to hear teachers union case

In early 2016, the US Supreme Court will hear the Friedrichs v. the California Teachers Association et al. case, a lawsuit that challenges the authority of the CTA and public-employee unions to collect mandatory "agency" fees. The Supreme Court will be ruling on whether Abood v. Detroit Board Education should be overruled and public-sector "agency" fees be invalidated under the First Amendment, and on whether it violates the First Amendment to require public employees to affirmatively object, rather than affirmatively consent, to subsidizing public-sector union speech (source).

In 1977, the Supreme Court ruled that it was legal in the public sector for unions to charge fees for "collective bargaining, contract administration, and grievance adjustment purposes" in the case Abood v. Detroit Board of Education (source).  The plaintiffs of Friedrichs v. CTA are hoping that the court overturns the Abood decision.

Friedrichs and the other plaintiffs argue that the agency fees violate their First Amendment rights because the CTA bargaining is "inherently political," and the CTA could be bargaining issues that certain teachers in the union don't agree with. According to the Center for Individual Rights, which represents the plaintiffs, "the union's negotiating positions embody political choices that are often controversial."

The defendants, the CTA and the state of California, argue that the state as an employer is well served to convey the views of workers and that loss of money from those who benefit from negotiations would threaten the union's ability to effectively represent employees (source).

This ties into our current unit on the judiciary system. Is it constitutional for the Supreme Court to reverse a prior decision? Disregarding constitutionality, is it morally right or wrong for the Supreme Court to reverse prior decisions? To what extent would the Supreme Court's ruling on this case be political vs legal?

1 comment:

Sameer Jain said...

I think that it is definitely constitutional for the Supreme Court to reverse prior decisions. It's the Supreme Court's job to interpret the meaning of the constitution as the Founding Fathers intended. Part of this is knowing how to apply the constitution in modern contexts. Times change, people change. It's the Supreme Court's job to follow that flow. This includes possibly changing prior decisions if they aren't congruent with the ideals of an essentially different society. Reversing decisions is all done in protection of the constitution. It can't be unconstitutional to maintain the integrity of the constitution in different contexts.

Almost all issues that the Supreme Court agrees to hear have some sort of political edge to them. Inevitably, politics does come into play in Supreme Court cases. Like Mr. Silton said at some point, it's obvious who in the Supreme Court is in which party, through his/her past votes. Politics will definitely play a part in the decision-making, but hopefully it won’t be an integral part of it. This relates back to Federalist 78, where Hamilton said that the court was to remain independent from politics and the other branches. While the Judiciary branch is separate from the other branches, the Supreme Court judges will inevitably be affected by their own political influences.