Washington State Public-Sector Unions Have A Lot At Stake In Friedrichs Supreme Court Case

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SNOSHUU / FLICKR

SNOSHUU / FLICKR

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in mid-January in a case that could have big ramifications for public-sector unions in Washington state.

It’s called Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, and the case concerns whether it’s okay that states such as California and Washington require public-sector employees to pay their union an “agency fee” for the cost of collective bargaining even if those workers opt out of paying the full amount of dues because they don’t want their money to go toward the union’s political activities.

Noah Purcell, solicitor general in the Washington state attorney general’s office, said if the Supreme Court rules in favor of the plaintiffs, public sector unions stand to lose a lot.

“It would basically be entirely optional to pay anything to the union even for the benefits that everyone gets,” Purcell said. “It would be a major change in the law and a major harm to public-sector unions.”

Washington signed onto a friend-of-the-court brief that was written by New York urging the Supreme Court to allow the agency fees to continue to exist.

Purcell said it’s “stunning” that the Supreme Court decided to take this case at all because there’s no dispute in lower courts that needs to be resolved.