Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association

PETITIONER: Rebecca Friedrichs, et al.
RESPONDENT: California Teachers Association, et al.
LOCATION: California Teachers Association State Headquarters

DOCKET NO.: 14-915
DECIDED BY: Roberts Court (2016- )
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 578 US (2016)
GRANTED: Jun 30, 2015
ARGUED: Jan 11, 2016
DECIDED: Mar 29, 2016

David C. Frederick - for union respondents
Donald B. Verrilli, Jr. - for the United States as amicus curiae, supporting respondents
Edward C. DuMont - for the state respondent
Michael A. Carvin - for the petitioners

Facts of the case

California law allows unions to become the exclusive bargaining representative for the public school employees of that district and therefore have a great deal of influence over a wide range of conditions of employment. Once a union is the exclusive bargaining representative for the school district, it may establish an “agency shop” arrangement, which means that a school district may require a public school employee to either join the union or pay the equivalent of dues to the union in the form of a “fair share service fee.” Because the First Amendment prohibits unions from compelling nonmembers to support activities that are not exclusively devoted to negotiations, contract administration, and other duties as an exclusive bargaining representative, unions must send notices to all nonmembers laying out the breakdown of the chargeable and nonchargeable portions of the fee. To avoid paying for the nonchargeable portion of the fee, a nonmember must affirmatively opt out each year.

Petitioners are a group of public school employees who sued the California Teachers Association and other similar organizations as well as school districts and argued that the agency shop arrangement and the opt-out requirement violated the First Amendment. The district court held that precedent upholding those practices precluded its judgment on the issue. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed.


(1) Do public-sector agency shop arrangements violate the First Amendment’s protections for freedom of speech and assembly?

(2) Does the First Amendment prohibit the practice of requiring public employees to affirmatively opt-out of subsidizing nonchargeable speech rather than to affirmatively consent?

Media for Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 11, 2016 in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - March 29, 2016 in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association

John G. Roberts, Jr.:

In case number 14-915, Friedrichs versus The California Teachers Association, the judgment is affirmed by an Equally Divided Court.

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