Frequently Searched

Protecting Public School Teachers’ Right Not to Pay Union Dues as a Condition of Employment

Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association

Case Status

Date Filed

August 12, 2015

Last Step

U.S. Supreme Court affirmed by an equally divided court

Next Step

Case Overview


The Goldwater Institute filed a “friend of the court” brief in Friedrichs v. California Teacher’s Association urging the U.S. Supreme Court to rule in favor of Rebecca Friedrichs and 9 other California public school teachers who are challenging the requirement that teachers must pay dues to the teacher’s union as a condition of employment.

“No one should be forced by the government to fund a union or trade association as a condition of employment,” said Jared Blanchard, a staff attorney at the Goldwater Institute who filed the amicus brief in support of 10 California public school teachers challenging the law. “To force people to financially support political opinions they disagree with in order to earn a living in their chosen profession is a gross violation of the First Amendment.”

The teachers challenged a law that allows them to decline union membership, but still requires them to pay union dues before they can be hired as a public school teacher. This arrangement, known as “agency shop” laws, forces teachers to pay full dues to the union annually, even if they aren’t members, and then ask for a refund for the roughly 30 percent of their dues that the union says is spent purely on politics. The rest of their dues are non-refundable and are supposed to be spent on non-political things that benefit all teachers, even those who aren’t members of the union, like collective bargaining.

The teachers asserted that collective bargaining is inherently political and that the benefits offered to them as a result of collective bargaining are not true benefits to all teachers. Examples include creating workplace rules that keep ineffective teachers in the classroom or prevent merit-pay systems.

The Goldwater Institute was interested in this case because of the implications it could have on a case the Institute has filed in North Dakota, Fleck v. Wetch. That case challenges the requirement that lawyers must join the state bar association in order to earn a living practicing law. Bar associations, like teachers unions, spend mandatory dues money on politics, often without the permission of members.

In April, 2016, the Court issued a one sentence, equally divided decision, which upheld the lower court’s ruling against Friedrichs.

Case Documents

Donate Now

Help all Americans live freer, happier lives. Join the Goldwater Institute as we defend and strengthen freedom in all 50 states.

Donate Now

Since 1988, the Goldwater Institute has been in the liberty business — defending and promoting freedom, and achieving more than 400 victories in all 50 states. Donate today to help support our mission.

We Protect Your Rights

Our attorneys defend individual rights and protect those who cannot protect themselves.

Need Help? Submit a case.

Get Connected to Goldwater

Sign up for the latest news, event updates, and more.