Roundup of Coverage on Friedrichs Cert. Grant

Published July 1st, 2015 -  - 07.01.152


Since yesterday’s announcement that the Court has voted to hear Friedrichs v. California Teachers Ass’n, a variety of major news outlets and commentators have reported on the case.

Over at the Los Angeles Times, David Savage observes that Friedrichs “comes at a time when public-sector unions are already being targeted by Republican governors in formerly strong union states like Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin.” Against that backdrop, a spokesperson for CTA contends that “only a small percentage of teachers” — the statewide union has approximately 325,000 members, plus an additional 31,000 agency-fee payers — “chose to pay the lower nonmember fees rather than full dues.” Savage also notes that the petitioners in Friedrichs are represented by Michael Carvin of Jones Day, who recently (and unsuccessfully) litigated King v. Burwell. OnLabor‘s Professor Sachs, as well as frequent OnLabor guest contributor Professor Catherine Fisk, are both quoted in the article.

Lyle Denniston of SCOTUSblog takes a good, quick look at the history of fair-share agreements, writing that the doctrinal underpinnings of Abood “go[] back at least to 1944.” He also describes the fast-track legal strategy employed by petitioners’ counsel, who were “[r]eacting to an undoubted invitation by the Supreme Court [in Harris v. Quinn] to raise the issue” of Abood‘s viability. Finally, of note to those of you who may be wondering about the timing of future developments in this case: Denniston predicts that oral argument will likely take place in December or January, right in time for “[a] final ruling [that] may emerge . . . in the midst of a presidential election campaign in which the role of labor unions in American life could be a visible issue.”

Politico‘s Brian Mahoney notes that the Friedrichs grant comes “[j]ust days after the Supreme Court cheered unions and the rest of the liberal coalition by sanctioning gay marriage and the Affordable Care Act.” Comparing Justice Kagan’s dissent in Harris v. Quinn to Chief Justice Roberts’s dissent in Obergefell v. Hodges, Mahoney goes on to contend that the Court’s recent decisions suggest that “the court disagrees on just what issues it should let the states and citizens decide.”

Meanwhile, an article published in Forbes examines Justice Powell’s concurring opinion in Abood, honing in on his claim of a “constitutional distinction between what the government can require of its own employees and what it can permit private employers to do.” According to Justice Powell, “[t]he ultimate objective of a union in the public sector . . . is to influence public decisionmaking in accordance with the views and perceived interests of its membership.” Consequently, Justice Powell contends, “the public-sector union is [in these respects] indistinguishable from the traditional political party in this country.”

Along those lines, the New York Times reports on the ideological battle that is clearly being waged in Friedrichs, noting that conservative interest groups had long sought to “[l]imit[] the power of public unions,” and that such groups “welcomed Tuesday’s development.” In turn, the Times quotes a statement by union officials asserting that by granting cert. in this case, “[t]he Supreme Court is revisiting decisions that have made it possible for people to stick together for a voice at work and in their communities — decisions that have stood for more than 35 years — and that have allowed people to work together for better public services and vibrant communities.”

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