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Beltway Confidential

Challenge to union 'closed shop' rules advances in court

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Beltway Confidential,Sean Higgins,Analysis

A California case that could effectively make every state a "right to work" state advanced in court Friday, increasing its odds that it could eventually be heard by the Supreme Court. The case involves 10 teachers who are suing to end their union's ability to force them to pay dues.

The organization behind the suit, the libertarian Center for Individual Rights, has been trying to get the matter to the Supreme Court by expediting the case's passage through the lower courts. On Friday, a judge denied a motion by the center for a decision. This was part of CIR's strategy, President Terry Pell said, since it would allow them to appeal the case to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

"With this case now one step closer to reaching the United States Supreme Court, our goal is to restore the constitutional right of millions of teachers to be able to decide for themselves whether to join and financially support a union," Pell said.

CIR's case argues that unions should not be able to get "security clauses" in the contracts they negotiate management. These clauses, also called "closed shop" rules, say that anyone hired must either join the union or at least pay dues to one. The rationale is that the clauses prevent economic "free riders" since all workers theoretically benefit from union collective bargaining.

Such clauses have long been a standard feature of union contracts, though 24 states have "right to work" laws that prohibit the practice.

CIR's case argues that the practice should be prohibited even in those states without right to work laws because they violate the individual rights of workers. "These fees do nothing but cause ongoing and irreparable injury to their First Amendment rights," Pell said.

For more on the case and why Pell thinks the Supreme Court signaled it was ready to rethink security clauses, see my August Washington Examiner column.

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