In 1977, the U.S. Supreme Court first held that requiring teachers to pay dues to support unions’ ideological and political activities violates teachers’ First Amendment rights. In response to that case, known as Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, teacher unions started charging non-union teachers a mandatory “agency” fee for serving as their collective-bargaining agents. In the Abood ruling, the Court specifically cautioned unions not to punish teachers who exercise their First Amendment rights by treating them differently than other teachers. Many subsequent Supreme Court decisions extended and elaborated on Abood.
Bain v. CTA is the only current case that addresses the First Amendment rights of teachers who want to stay members of their unions. Although the teacher plaintiffs disagree with the political agenda and activities of their unions’ leadership, they value the collective-bargaining role of the union, as well as cordial relations with other teachers.
Other cases involve non-union teachers who argue that they should not be compelled to pay mandatory agency fees because teacher unions are essentially political organizations. In 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court considered the first of these cases, known as Friedrichs v. CTA. Soon after the Court heard oral arguments, Justice Antonin Scalia died, and the case dead-locked in a 4-to-4 vote. Now that the Court has nine members again, it might review the legal principles underlying agency fees through either Janus v. AFSCME, a case out of Illinois, or Yohn v. CTA.