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AAUP Responds to Friedrichs Oral Arguments

For more information, contact:
Risa Lieberwitz, AAUP General Counsel,

Howard Bunsis, AAUP-Collective Bargaining Congress Chair,

Washington, DC— Today, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, a case which threatens to reverse decades-old decisions allowing for the collection of fair share fees from public employees. The case has far-reaching consequences for American workers, students and the public. Fair share fees fund a range of activities that improve the quality of education and the well being of students as well as educators.

In brief, the case seeks to weaken unions by limiting or eliminating the collection of agency fees. The AAUP supports the right of unions to charge agency fees, also known as “fair share.” These fees ensure that nonmembers help pay for the costs of the representation that the union provides to all. Even if bargaining unit members choose not to join as full members, they are represented by the union and benefit from the contract it negotiates. In higher education, strong unions help protect academic freedom and shared governance, limit contingency, and promote economic security for faculty and quality education for students.

For the past forty years, the Supreme Court has endorsed the legality of fair share arrangements, This is now being challenged on the basis that the First Amendment bars this practice, since it compels individuals to pay for “speech” (by the union) with which they may not agree.

Howard Bunsis, chair of the AAUP-Collective Bargaining Congress, said, “The Friedrichs case is an attack on workers’ rights to bargain collectively, an attack on workplace democracy, and an attack on the middle class. It is also a call to organize; attempts to divide us will not work.”

Rudy Fichtenbaum, AAUP president, said, “In higher education, strong unions not only promote quality education for students and economic security for educators, they protect academic freedom and shared governance. It is only fair for workers to pay their fair share.”

Risa Lieberwitz, AAUP general counsel, said, “As the AAUP/AFT joint amicus brief explains, collective bargaining, supported by the fair share agency fee system, significantly benefits the educational system.  Agency fee arrangements fairly balance the interests of nonmembers with the state’s and union's interests in requiring them to pay their fair share of the costs of negotiating a collective bargaining agreement that benefits members and nonmembers alike." 

More information on the case and the amicus brief filed by the AAUP is available here:

The mission of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) is to advance academic freedom and shared governance; to define fundamental professional values and standards for higher education; to promote the economic security of faculty, academic professionals, graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, and all those engaged in teaching and research in higher education; to help the higher education community organize to make our goals a reality; and to ensure higher education's contribution to the common good. Founded in 1915, the AAUP has helped to shape American higher education by developing the standards and procedures that maintain the quality in education and academic freedom in this country's colleges and universities.

Media Contact: 
Risa Lieberwitz, AAUP General Counsel, (607) 592-5662, / Howard Bunsis, AAUP-Collective Bargaining Congress Chair, (734) 487-1070,
Publication Date: 
Monday, January 11, 2016