Supreme Court

Stossel: Supreme Court Ruling May Crush Unions

The Supreme Court hears a case that might crush government unions. The unions are upset. Stossel debates a union official.


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Monday the Supreme Court hears a case that could block unions from forcing government workers to pay union dues.

John Stossel was forced to pay union dues when he worked at CBS and ABC, and he says government workers should have the right to choose whether to pay. Of course, that would weaken the power of union leaders.

Teacher Rebecca Friedrichs says their power should be weakened. She tried to fight people she calls "bullies" at the California Teachers Association. She was trying to save some teachers' jobs during the last recession by getting all her fellow teachers to take a slight pay cut.

She says the teachers were willing to take a cut–to save jobs, but the union would not even allow her to survey the other teachers.

So Rebecca decided she no longer wanted to pay union dues. She sued the California Teachers Association and her case went all the way to the Supreme Court. Observers said Rebecca was likely to win.

But then Justice Antonin Scalia, who would likely have ruled in her favor, died. Without him, the case tied 4-4; that meant the union won.

Now, Scalia has been replaced by Neil Gorsuch, and the court will hear a nearly identical case next week brought by plaintiff Mark Janus.

The union being sued is America's largest government workers' union, The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). Their Director of Research and Collective Bargaining, Steven Kreisberg, tells John Stossel it would be unfair for the court to make public-sector unions like his "right to work."

Kreisberg suggests that the plaintiff "simply doesn't want to pay [dues] because he'd like to get those [union] services for free."

Stossel asked Friedrichs about that. Her answer: "I never asked for [union] representation…I don't see it as a benefit…the benefits aren't worth the moral costs."

By "the moral costs," she means the harm in supporting a union that she thinks harms kids and teachers with their bad policies.

Stossel says he hopes the court will make government-worker unions "right to work," because forcing someone to pay for something they don't want is tyranny.

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