A Court Case to Define the Labor Movement

March 2016

By: Bruce W. Both, President

A Court Case to Change the Labor Movement

Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association aims to rewrite the rules how public unions operate


A monumental case, posed to rewrite a 40-year precedent guiding public sector labor relations, will be ruled on later this summer by the five Republican-appointed justices in the Supreme Court.

Every union member in America should be monitoring this case closely.

Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association aims to overturn the 1977 decision, Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, which established the legality of an "agency fee" to be levied by public-sector unions on non-union members to support collective bargaining -- a fee to cover the union's costs to negotiate a contract that covers all the public employees, even those who are not union members.

The new approach suggests depleting public-sector unions’ finances and reducing their political clout.  This is about defunding unions, removing organized labor’s political contributions and weakening the ability for the labor movement to compete with the heavy pockets of corporations.

With a legal process systematically stacked against unions, the question of how unions are expected to compete is on the forefront of union-members across America. If unions are defunded, who then, fights for working men and women?

Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association questions whether public employees may band together to form unions and pursue common interests of the collective workforce against the free speech rights of disagreeing employees to withdraw from bargaining efforts which they disagree.

A decision by the Court against the teachers association could not only significantly weaken public sector unions, but could also be foreshadowing for what could come next: defunding private sector unions.

Under current law unions bargain for collective salaries, safer schools, working conditions, etc… If the Court rules against the Teachers Association, men and women who choose not to pay dues, will still receive the same benefits, pay and working conditions negotiated by the Union. They will become “free-riders”.

This would create an impossible problem -- someone benefiting from collective bargaining without paying for it.

According The New York Times, "A ruling in the teachers' favor would affect millions of government workers and culminate a political and legal campaign by a group of prominent conservative foundations aimed at weakening public-sector unions. Those unions stand to lose fees from both workers who object to the positions the unions take and those who simply choose not to join while benefiting from the unions' efforts on their behalf."

The case will affect millions of people and have an impact on tens of thousands of current union contracts.

Do not be fooled with clever rhetoric and quirky headlines. This case is an attempt to shift the balance away from workers and in the favor of corporate interests. It has nothing to do for the betterment of working conditions in schools, safety in schools or fairness at work. It only aims to hurt middle class and working class families by defunding their only weapon to combat against greed .


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