Rebecca Friedrichs and her fellow plaintiffs going before the Supreme Court today are those kind of teachers.
Those of you who've been working in schools for a while know what I mean. The kind of teacher who keeps pouring herself coffee from the pot in the faculty lounge, but never thinks to put some money in the jar to buy grounds and filters. The kind of teacher who eats his fill at the holiday party, but never seems to have his share of the catering bill "on them at the moment."
The kind of teacher who never seems to have the time to show up at a work action, but will be the first to complain that the negotiations team didn't fight hard enough for a pay increase. The kind of teacher who complains about local union leadership, but never steps up and runs for office herself.
The only difference is that Friedrichs and friends aren't guilt of these relatively trivial transgressions: instead of mooching free coffee, they want to mooch free negotiations.
As I wrote earlier this year, some of The Friedrichs Freeloaders, like Harlan Erlich, seem confused about what their case is actually all about. Erlich didn't like that his union supported marriage equity, but the law is actually quite clear: he doesn't have to support the union's political activities. A couple of quick checks on a form and Harlan can rest assured that his dues won't go to helping make sure two people in love can have legal rights. Because this is America, and you have the right to live in the Dark Ages and be a bigot if that's what you want.
No, what's at stake here is something else: The Friedrichs Freeloaders think they should be able to benefit from collective bargaining actions taken on their behalf by teachers unions. But they also think asking them to pay their fair share of the bargaining costs is somehow an encroachment on their free speech.
Understand, they aren't seeking to overturn state laws that require unions to negotiate on behalf of all public employees within a specific jurisdiction and job type. If that was the case, the Friedrichs Freeloaders could just go out and try to negotiate their own contracts, completely forgoing not only legal protections and services from the unions, but any benefits those unions receive from negotiations.
Good luck with that.
No, what the Friedrichs Freeloaders want is for the court to find that compelling them to pony up for the cost of negotiations is a violation of their First Amendment rights. Not of their rights to speak out against their union, though, nor to actually run in elections and change the policies of their locals; those rights are guaranteed (even if they are too much work for these plaintiffs).
What the Friedrichs Freeloaders want is the right to sponge off of you and me and every other hard-working teacher who is grown-up enough to understand that nothing comes free in this world -- unless Samuel Alito, who has been begging someone to bring a case like this, decides it does. They want the right to convince themselves that they aren't the worst kind of leeches, happily taking whatever they can get without ever acknowledging their gains come at someone else's cost.
Nearly 40 years ago, the Court acknowledged the free rider problem and came up with a simple solution: Abood v Detroit Board of Education clearly stated public employees could only be compelled to pay for those services related to negotiations. Understand, not all states even require these fees, known as "agency shop" or "fair share" fees.
Of course, in those states, teachers make considerably less. If the Freidrichs Freeloaders win their case, a lot of teachers, and other public employees, are going to suffer a wage penalty. I'm sure their conservative patrons -- the ones who are paying for this lawsuit -- will watch out for them.
The rest of us, not so much.
Personally, I don't know how the Friedrichs Freeloaders can sleep at night. They are setting up their colleagues for a major financial, professional, and personal blow. Millions of families of hard-working, middle-class teachers are going to suffer real consequences if they win, all so they can save a few bucks in union negotiating fees.
I'm no lawyer, so I'm not the guy to opine on the legal intricacies of this case. All I know is that I could never shaft my fellow teachers the way the Freidrichs Freeloaders are getting ready to shaft theirs. Legal abstractions are fine, but we're talking real lives here. You would think a group of teachers, of all people, would understand that.
ADDING: George Will wants you to believe it's no big deal when the Court overturns a ruling it made four decades ago. He's wrong; it's a very big deal. Stare decisis is a bedrock principal of law, abandoned only in the cases where the Court clearly ruled in violation of the Constitution or in a way that offends current principles. That's not the case here; agency fees have worked fine for 40 years, and in no way abrogate anyone's right to free speech. Overturning Abood is a radical act.