FRIEDRICHS V. CALIFORNIA TEACHERS’ ASSOCIATION: UNIONS, FREE SPEECH, AND A SPLIT COURT
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The history of collective bargaining has been controversial and exciting. Unions formed originally as a way for workers to band together against employers’ abuses, but some employees feel that many unions have gotten too powerful and overstepped their boundaries. 26 states are known as right-to-work states; a state with or laws that give employees the right to work in a union shop without being required to join a union. Rebecca Friedrichs and nine other public school employees from California, which is not a right-to-work state, decided to fight the fact that they are compelled to pay any fees to the California Teachers’ Association, the sole collective bargaining representative of California public school teachers. Their case that they brought made it all the way to the Supreme Court where it seemed certain that they would win, which would change the law all over the country, effectively putting an end to collective bargaining in the United States. In fact, they urged the lower courts to find against them because they wanted to get it quickly to the Supreme Court. At the time, they were sure to win a 5-4 victory. After oral arguments, however, Justice Scalia passed away, leaving Friedrichs with a 4-4 decision and upholding the right of unions to collect fees from employees that they represent whether they are members of the union. My thesis will explore and analyze the legal arguments made in this case and compare the public-school systems in California and Texas to determine whether the unions help or hinder education. By examining the history of right-to-work laws in America and the basic arguments made in Friedrichs, this thesis will argue that teachers’ unions are beneficial not only to teachers, but to students as well.