Vernuccio Op-ed Published on

Labor policy director discusses Friedrichs case in press

On January 11, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case of Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, which centers around public sector unions and the first amendment.

The Mackinac Center Legal Foundation filed an amicus brief in the case, arguing that when a union bargains with the government, all its activities are inherently political. Forcing a worker to subsidize those activities is therefore a violation of that worker's first amendment rights.

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F. Vincent Vernuccio, director of labor policy at the Mackinac Center, published an op-ed about the case on on January 11:

The legal precedent at work here is a 1977 Supreme Court case, Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, which gives public sector union members the right to opt-out of paying the portion of their dues that fund explicitly political speech, but requires them to pay for the portion that covers representation. The court’s logic at the time was that, if employees were given the choice of whether or not to pay dues to their union, very few would do so — thus harming the union’s ability to collectively bargain.

With the benefit of hindsight, we know that these fears were overblown. As of 2015, employees in 25 right-to-work states can exercise the right that Friedrichs seeks, to completely opt out of paying dues or fees to a union they don’t support. Research from the Mackinac Center shows that only about one in five unionized employees in these states exercise this right.

If the Supreme Court rules in favor of Friedrichs, all government employees can still remain in their union and the union can still bargain collectively. The decision will only affect public employees in about half the states, giving those workers the same rights as workers in the other half. The only thing that will change is that a government union can no longer get a public employee fired for not paying them.

The full article is available on the Fox News website. and the Huffington Post quoted Vernuccio in articles describing the case. The Supreme Court is expected to announce its decision sometime this summer.

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