Americans work harder than ever before, and it shows. Productivity has gone up, and so have corporate profits. What hasn't gone up is our paychecks, and it's getting harder and harder to get by, let alone get ahead. Simply put, this is because our economic rules have been rigged by corporations and the rich to benefit themselves at the expense of working people.
But this week, working people scored a rare victory and stopped (for now) one of the largest power grabs ever attempted. We're talking about Friedrichs v California Teachers Association.
In a split 4-4 decision, the Supreme Court affirmed nearly 40 years of constitutional law that says those who benefit from union representation must pay for that representation.
Even though the case does not affect federal employees, it does affect state and local government workers who have the right to ask those who don't want to belong to a union to contribute to the cost of negotiating the benefits that they receive.
"The court's decision ensures that working people will continue to have a voice at work and that the rich can't just impose a massive free-rider tax on working people," said AFGE President J. David Cox Sr. "If the corporations behind the case had won, it would have been a lot harder for workers such as teachers, firefighters, and nurses to negotiate for a better life for themselves and their families. The already tilted rules would have been tilted even more in favor of the super-rich."
The case, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, was brought on by organizations funded by the shadowy billionaire Koch Brothers with the goal of weakening unions – the only means for working people to band together and build a voice at work.
Currently, when a majority at a particular workplace vote to form a union, the union is required by law to represent everyone in the workplace. This case addressed whether free-riders who don’t feel like paying dues can be required to cover the cost of union representation through discounted fair share fees. It's been the standard operating procedure for unions since the Supreme Court unanimously affirmed fair share fees in 1977. No one is being forced to join a union or pay for politics. But it's only fair that those who don't want to belong to a union contribute to the cost of negotiating those benefits that they receive.
Unions have proven time and again that they improve the lives and living standards of everyone in this country, whether they belong to unions or not. And whenever union membership declines, income inequality soars. When the union negotiates for workers, everyone enjoys better compensation, health and safety standards, job security, and other protections.
With worker rights constantly being threatened as was the case here and other cases in the pipeline, the vacant Supreme Court position may well play a very significant role in preserving or undermining worker's rights to come together to improve their jobs and exercise their voice at work. The Koch brothers and other corporate elites know exactly what's at stake, which is one of the reasons Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has refused to follow the constitution and hold a vote on the Supreme Court nominee.
“This case is about destroying workers’ voice and our freedom to come together to improve our lives," Cox said. "It's far from over, and AFGE stands with the teachers’ unions and all working people who believe that they too should have a shot at the American dream .”