Will this Decision be the Final Blow to the American Working Class?

Categories: Workers' Rights, Labor

The Supreme Court will soon decide whether to allow people to reap the benefits of union contracts such as higher pay, better health care coverage, and a voice at work without having to pay for any of the cost of negotiating or enforcing the agreement. This case could immediately affect some of AFGE locals.

The court on Monday heard arguments in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, an important case brought on by organizations funded by the Koch Brothers and corporate CEOs with the goal of weakening unions – the only places where working people can band together and have a voice at work.

In the coming months, the court will decide whether to allow the so-called “fair share fees” and let people avoid paying these fees to unions. 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.  At issue is 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. When the union negotiates for workers, everyone enjoys better compensation, health and safety standards, job security, and other protections. It is only fair that all employees be required to contribute to the cost of securing those benefits.

That’s why the Supreme Court in 1977 unanimously affirmed that it is constitutional for public sector unions to collect fair share fees.

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.

But the current court could overturn the 1977 decision.  If it does, public employee unions will have far fewer resources to lift millions of workers into the middle class and protect their standard of living.

“This case is about corporate CEOs and wealthy special interests trying to make it harder for working people to get ahead,” said AFGE President J. David Cox Sr. “It’s about destroying workers’ voice and our freedom to come together to improve our lives. AFGE stands with the teachers’ unions and all working to stop this madness.”

While Friedrichs may not immediately impact federal-sector employees, a negative Supreme Court decision could potentially invalidate all state and local statutes that recognize the importance of fair share fees, as well as undermine collective bargaining agreements reached under those statutes.  

The final decision in this case could, for example, immediately affect AFGE’s D.C. government locals that have negotiated fair share fees under the D.C. labor statute, which makes such fees negotiable. An unfavorable decision in Friedrichs could also have unforeseen, long-term repercussions for federal-sector union activists who are required by law to fairly represent non-members even though the law does not require those non-members to pay their fair share for the many benefits they receive as a result of the union’s representation and collective bargaining.

For more information on the case and what you can do, click here.

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