Supreme Court Sceptical Of Mandatory Union Fees

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The US Supreme Court looks ready to deal a nationwide blow to organised labour’s powers to collect tens of millions of dollars in fees from non-members.

In oral arguments on Monday, a majority of justices seemed to lean in favour of a challenge by California teachers against state laws that force them to pay hundreds of dollars a year to public sector unions.

The public school educators argue that the mandatory fees violate the constitutional rights of workers who disagree with the union’s positions.

Lawyers for the pro-union California Teachers Association said the fee ensures non-members do not become “free riders”, reaping the dividends of collective bargaining without paying their fair share.
But Justice Anthony Kennedy, a key vote on the nine-member court, rejected that argument.

“The union is basically making the teachers ‘compelled-riders’ on issues with which they strongly disagree,” he said.

Arguing in support of the union, California Solicitor General Edward Dumont said fees for collective bargaining typically apply to non-political issues such as mileage reimbursement or working hours.
But Chief Justice John Roberts, another key vote, said union representation was often politically charged when the government was the employer.

“That’s always a public policy issue,” he said.

California is one of 20 states that have such mandatory fees.

The 10 teachers that filed the lawsuit in 2013 are asking the justices to overturn a 1977 Supreme Court ruling that allowed unions to collect fees from workers who do not want representation as long as the money is not spent on political activities.

The teachers are backed by the conservative Center for Individual Rights.

US conservatives have long sought to curb the influence of public sector unions, which tend to back the Democratic Party and liberal causes.

A decision in the case is expected by late June.

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