The Supreme Court heard arguments yesterday in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. The case centers around 10 teachers (Friedrichs et. al) challenging a state requirement that they pay dues to a union (California Teachers Association) that takes political positions teachers may disagree with. This case “would be a huge victory for workers’ rights, the First Amendment, and educational freedom – and probably the most important ruling this term,” says Cato Institute scholar Ilya Shapiro, co-author of Cato’s amicus brief. Shapiro concludes:
“First Amendment values are at serious risk if the government can compel a particular citizen, or a discrete group of citizens, to pay special subsidies for speech on the side it favors.” United States v. United Foods, 533 U.S. 405, 411 (2001). That is why state-compelled subsidies are subject to First Amendment scrutiny and must be carefully tailored to minimize impingement on First Amendment rights. Allowing the government to compel citizens to subsidize a private party’s political speech, subject only to a circumscribed opt-out procedure administered by the party being subsidized, crosses the limited of what the First Amendment can tolerate because a better- tailored procedure—affirmative consent to pay subsidies—is readily available. For that reason, the decision of the court below should be reversed.