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Agency Fee in the Supreme Court

AAUP president Rudy Fichtenbaum and AAUP-CBC chair Howard Bunsis issued the following statement in response to the US Supreme Court's announcement that it will consider the constitutionality of agency fee next term.

Today, the Supreme Court granted certiorari, and thereby agreed to hear an appeal, in a case titled Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. Friedrichs raises questions regarding whether and under what circumstances agency fee is constitutional in the public sector. Agency fee has been deemed constitutional since the Supreme Court’s 1977 decision in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education. Last year in Harris v. Quinn, the Supreme Court declined to overrule Abood, though it raised questions regarding its vitality. The Supreme Court will issue a decision in Friedrichs during the 2015–16 term, most likely in the spring or summer of 2016. A decision in Friedrichs could prohibit agency fee for public sector unions.

We will be watching this case closely. We are disappointed that the Supreme Court decided to hear the case. We hope for the best outcome—an affirmation from the Supreme Court of the constitutionality of charging all bargaining unit members for the costs of representing them. But we must also be prepared for an unfavorable ruling, and we will be ready to act. The best defense against an unfavorable outcome, and the best preparation for an uncertain future, is to build strong unions.

Collective bargaining rights, including the right to collect agency fee, are crucial to protecting academic freedom, shared governance, and economic security in public higher education.

The AAUP and AAUP-CBC, along with our many local collective-bargaining chapters, will stand with all of labor in supporting union democracy. We will work with other unions and organizations that share our values to protect public higher education for the common good. And we will work with other unions to contribute to arguments, including amicus briefs, that support the constitutionality of agency fee.

Publication Date: 
Tuesday, June 30, 2015