Under-the-Radar Supreme Court Case Poses Profound Threat to Unions Nationwide

Workers across the United States are bracing for a major Supreme Court case, set for argument on Monday, that could strike a devastating blow to public sector unions nationwide.

Backed by right-wing anti-union groups including the Center for Individual Rights, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association seeks to overturn the legal framework under which public sector unions require workers who benefit from their representation—from higher wages to improved conditions—to pay their fair share.

In other words, the case could result in the enforcement of so-called “Right to Work” (RTW) laws—dubbed by critics as “Right to Work for Less”—on all public labor unions in the United States.

The current case is one of many attempts to undo Abood v. Detroit Board of Education (1977) and follows the passage of RTW laws in 25 states.

The case has huge implications for public unions. According to the editorial board of The Nation, the reversal of Abood would “trigger an earthquake in American labor relations.”

“The legal foundations of thousands of public-sector bargaining agreements, covering millions of workers providing all manner of public services, will disappear,” the editorial continues. “The whole of American public employment, at all levels of government, will become a ‘right to work’ (i.e., right not to pay for service) killing field for unions.”