Under California law, once a union becomes the exclusive bargaining representative in a school district, it represents all public school employees for purposes of bargaining with the district and all employees, as a condition of their employment, must join the union or pay a “fair share service fee,” which is equivalent to the union dues but includes fees not devoted to any negotiations. The union provides notice to employees of the breakdown of the chargeable and nonchargeable portions of the fee and employees may affirmatively and annually opt out of paying the nonchargeable fees.
On April 30, 2013, public school teachers and Christian Educators Association International sued the most politically powerful union in the State, the California Teachers Association, its national and local affiliates, and representatives challenging the “agency shop” regimes in their districts and the opt-out requirements used by the union. The teachers quickly moved for judgment on the pleadings and noted the California federal district court was bound by Supreme Court and appeals court precedent. The district court agreed and ruled in favor of the union. On November 18, 2014, without oral argument, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court. On January 26, 2015, the teachers filed a petition for writ of certiorari, which was granted on June 30, 2015.
In Abood v. Detroit Bd. of Education, 431 U.S. 209 (1977), teachers challenged agency shop provisions in Michigan law substantially similar to those challenged by the California teachers. The Court held that annual agency fees did not violate the teachers’ rights but unions could not use fees for activities not “germane” to their duties.
On September 11, 2015, MSLF filed a friend of the court brief in support of the teachers urging the Court to require unions to allow nonmember employees the opportunity to opt in to supporting efforts unrelated to collective bargaining. On January 11, 2016, the Court heard oral argument. On March 29, 2016, in a 4-4 decision, the Court affirmed the ruling of the Ninth Circuit. Plaintiffs filed a petition for rehearing, which has not yet been distributed for conference.