ABC, CBS Skimp on Oral Arguments of Key Supreme Court Case on Future of Unions

On Monday, ABC’s World News Tonight and the CBS Evening News chose to punt on covering the first of work in 2016 for the Supreme Court with a blockbusters case concerning the future of paying dues to public sector unions that often go onto lobby for liberal causes (even if some of their dues-paying members disagree). 

In contrast, NBC Nightly News and Justice correspondent Pete Williams offered a full segment on what’s arguably one of the Court’s top cases this term, but fretted that a ruling against unions “could deal a crippling blow” to them and the “contracts for 10 million public employees nationwide.”

Anchor Lester Holt explained that there was “high drama” as the nation’s top Court “took up a blockbuster case” that “could deal a crippling blow to the millions of unions that represent millions of the nation's public employees like teachers and police officers.”

Tossing to Williams, Holt added that the case has some concerned that it may spell “the beginning of the end for government unions.”

Williams spent the first portion of his time profiling the case’s main plaintiff in Los Angeles teacher Rebecca Friedrichs, who has argued that she should not have to participate and pay into the teacher’s union since it “forces her to subsidize union positions she opposes, violating free speech.”

Following a soundbite from the third grade teacher, Williams reported that “[r]oughly half of the states require non-union members to pay a share of dues for collective bargaining” and union defenders worry that a “loss would cast a cloud over contracts for millions of police officers, firefighters, teachers, and nurses nationwide, but the Court seems prepared to rule against the unions.”

As for what the atypical swing justice thought of the case, Williams summarized what Justice Anthony Kennedy had to say: “Justice Anthony Kennedy said many teachers strongly disagree with the union’s position on tenure, merit pay and classroom size but are forced to subsidize it any way.”

Williams concluded just as Holt did by fretting about the outlook of unions if the California Teacher’s Association loses: “If the unions lose, as now seems likely, they will be weaker the next time they sit down to negotiate contracts for 10 million public employees nationwide.” 

The transcript of the segment from January 11's NBC Nightly News can be found below.

NBC Nightly News
January 11, 2016
7:10 p.m. Eastern

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: End of Unions?]

LESTER HOLT: Today at the Supreme Court, which took up a blockbuster case, high drama. The case that could deal a crippling blow to the millions of unions that represent millions of the nation's public employees like teachers and police officers. Our Justice correspondent Pete wings explains why it’s a case that some say could be the beginning of the end for government unions. 

PETE WILLIAMS: Rebecca Frederichs, an L.A. third grade teacher, doesn't want to join the union but must pay a share of the dues to cover the negotiation of contracts to apply to all teachers. She said that forces her to subsidize union positions she opposes, violating free speech. 

REBECCA FRIEDRICHS: We should decide whether what the union is doing is good for us and good for our workplace and good for our students. 

WILLIAMS: Roughly half of the states require non-union members to pay a share of dues for collective bargaining. Unions say a Supreme Court loss would cast a cloud over contracts for millions of police officers, firefighters, teachers, and nurses nationwide, but the Court seems prepared to rule against the unions. Justice Anthony Kennedy said many teachers strongly disagree with the union’s position on tenure, merit pay and classroom size but are forced to subsidize it any way. If the unions lose, as now seems likely, they will be weaker the next time they sit down to negotiate contracts for 10 million public employees nationwide. Pete Williams, NBC News, at the Supreme Court.

Curtis Houck
Curtis Houck
Curtis Houck is the Managing Editor of NewsBusters for the Media Research Center