George Leef highlights for Forbes readers a court case that has raised concerns for labor union leaders.

Labor unions aren’t like other private organizations. They have lobbied for and gotten powers and privileges that no other groups have, or should have. (For a comprehensive study of those powers and privileges, I suggest Professor Morgan O. Reynolds’ book.) Crucially, they can compel workers to pay them money if they want to keep their jobs. Then they use much of that money for political activities that fortify the unions’ position.

That compulsion, however, is under legal attack.

At the end of its recently completed term, the Supreme Court announced a number of the cases it has decided to hear when its new term begins in October. One of those cases is Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. The key issue is whether public workers represented by unions, including teachers and professors, should be free from having to pay dues that go towards politics unless they affirmatively choose to opt in and agree to pay

As matters now stand in California and other non-Right to Work states, unions only have to allow dissenting workers the opportunity to opt out of paying dues for things other than collective bargaining and related matters. Naturally, the unions have contrived to make it as hard as possible for anyone to do that.

Over many years, the Supreme Court has recognized that compulsory unionism raises First Amendment issues when the dues money extracted from workers is used to fund political speech and activism that the individuals do not favor. In the 1977 Abood case, the Court approved of the “opt-out” approach, but that precedent seems to be on thin ice after two recent decisions, Knox v. SEIU and Harris v. Quinn.

The Court has ruled that just as people have a First Amendment right to speak freely, they also have a First Amendment right not to be compelled to subsidize speech by others that they do no agree with. Therefore, when public unions make it difficult for workers to avoid paying for political speech, there’s a constitutional problem.

As attorney Deborah LaFetra of Pacific Legal Foundation explains here, “If a teacher doesn’t want to support the union’s politicking but fails to file her objection within the six-week window, she must pay the entire amount.” The plaintiffs in the case argue that the constitutional rights of teachers and other public workers would be protected by overruling Abood and adopting a standard that workers who want to help support the union’s political activities need to voluntarily opt in.