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Supreme Court to Consider Case That Could Upend Unions at Public Colleges

[Updated (6/30/2015, 4:43 p.m.) with more context.]

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday decided to take a case that could upend how unions are financed at public colleges. The New York Times reports that the court will hear arguments in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, which was brought by public-school teachers in California who argue that being forced to pay union fees violates their First Amendment rights.

Public employees in states without right-to-work laws can be required to pay fees to unions that represent them but that they may not want to be members of. The plaintiffs in the Friedrichs case, No. 14-915, are seeking to have the 1977 Supreme Court decision that allowed such required fees, Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, overturned.

Last year the court stopped short of overturning Abood in another case on union fees, instead ruling that one category of public employee be exempt from having to pay them.

The court’s chance to weigh in again on the issue comes as conservative lawmakers seek to diminish unions’ clout nationwide. The issue has played out with the most vitriol in Wisconsin, where the governor and potential Republican presidential candidate, Scott Walker, has signed legislation drastically limiting how unions can operate. In 2011 the state stripped public employees’ collective-bargaining rights at Mr. Walker’s urging. Earlier this year the Legislature passed a right-to-work law, making it the 25th state to do so.

The Supreme Court’s next term begins in October, when it will also reconsider the affirmative-action case Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin. A ruling in the union-fees case is expected by the term’s end, in June 2016.

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