Looks like the Supreme Court is poised to rule against public unions in a major case. At least that's what two justices indicated today during an 80-minute oral argument involving a California teachers' union, USA Today reports. In Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, plaintiffs argue that the union can't make non-members contribute fees toward collective bargaining for salaries and benefits. Plaintiffs are making a First Amendment case, saying workers shouldn't have to pay without having a say in union demands. Now Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy seem to be siding with the court's five conservative members, which is likely a lock for the plaintiffs, Reuters reports.
"The union basically is making these teachers 'compelled riders' for issues on which they strongly disagree," says Kennedy. And Roberts seems to be siding with Justice Antonin Scalia, who says these are really political dues because all union actions are inherently political. California and the teachers' union argue that non-member fees ensure there's enough money for the union to function and avoid having "free riders" who benefit without paying dues, SCOTUSblog reports. "If they are given a choice, they would prefer to have it for free, rather than to pay for it," says a California official. Then there's the political element: Unions are strongly supporting Democrats and vice versa, notes USA Today, so both would be damaged (or energized) if the ruling goes against them. (Read more US Supreme Court stories.)