It’s the case that’s had the labor movement on edge: Friedrichs v CTA. At stake? Public sector unions’ right to claim fees from their members.
Today, the Supreme Court delivered a split vote decision. At 4-4, the now-eight-member court affirmed the judgment of the lower court in favor of the teachers’ union — and labor activists everywhere breathed a collective sigh of relief.
However, as Matt Ford explains at the Atlantic (A Narrow Escape for Public Sector Unions 3/29/16), the future remains uncertain:
Tuesday’s deadlock means that the Ninth Circuit’s ruling in favor of the teachers’ union will stand. But it also signaled that Justice Anthony Kennedy, who almost certainly joined Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas on one side of the split, would be willing to overturn Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, the decision that became the basis for public-employee contracts. (The Court did not disclose how each justice voted in today’s decision.) That tosses the precedent’s ultimate fate to the next justice who serves on the Court.
For more, read the full article at the Atlantic.
Featured photo by Patrick McKay via flickr (CC-BY-NC).
By Allison Porter
When Antonin Scalia died in Texas last month, public sector unions got some breathing room. Friedrichs vs California Teachers Association — the case that was expected to overturn Abood vs Detroit Board of Ed in April — is likely to languish in a 4-4 stalemate until a new justice is appointed. The danger, of course, is that unions will slow down or even stop the internal reforms that were underway. Instead of putting on the breaks, they should see this gift of time as an opportunity to be even more innovative and aggressive in transforming their organizations.
Unions have good reason to resent the open shop. The average person does not want to pay for what they can get for free. Federal law recognized this “free-rider” problem in upholding the right to collect fair share fees and it is a cynical and calculated agenda that is fighting against it. Unfortunately, the legal trend is against us on this one. In the Friedrichs arguments we got an up close look at the future: fast or slow, fair or unfair, labor is losing fair share.
Whenever there is an existential threat, we humans are shocked out of complacency. It gets our attention. However, it can also result in panic, paralysis and short term thinking. In taking Friedrichs to the brink, and then pulling back, history gave unions a look into the abyss without having to take the actual fall. This is a gift that we need to appreciate.
It’s important to learn from both what the threat revealed about the internal workings of unions and what their response revealed about their readiness for change. Continue reading Time to double down: What the demise of Friedrichs means for labor
The death of Antonin Scalia has marked a significant and surprising development in US politics. Republican senators are vowing to reject any nominee Obama makes to the court and attempting to call into question the legitimacy of the President making a nomination at all, while Obama, the Democrats, and most of the attention-paying public are baffled by this anti-constitutional posturing, all in the name of so-called constitutional filiality.
Of course, however this political showdown turns out, one thing is for certain: Scalia’s departure means things will be shaken up. Whether a new Justice is appointed during Obama’s term or not, the Court is down one arch-conservative, leaving only eight justices behind to wrestle with the cases remaining on the docket.
This year, one of the most controversial cases on the Supreme Court is slated to be Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. At issue is the union’s right to collect “agency fees,” and the implications of the decision will be far reaching. Will public sector unions be able to sustain themselves through the collecting of fees from public sector workers?
In this case, Scalia’s death is likely to mean a 4-4 decision on the case, sending the decision back to the victor in the lower court, which, in this case, was the union. Alternatively, the case could be re-argued once a new justice is appointed — whenever that may be. Continue reading Scalia’s Death & The Future of Labor
By Penny Lewis
The Friedrichs case argued before the Supreme Court yesterday will decide the near-term fate of public sector unions in the United States. In this and the next blog post I am mulling over the roots and implications of this case; in the next I want to consider what it means for us here at CUNY and our current contract fight.
The basic issue facing the Court is whether the “agency fees” collected by public unions from public workers violate the first amendment rights of non-union workers. The plaintiffs are making the case that, because bargaining in the public sector involves issues like merit pay, public workers who do not support the positions their unions take on such issues are being forced to pay for political speech with which they disagree. (For more background on the case, please look here and here.)
The ideological — and more importantly, material — roots of this argument lie in the decades long assault launched by conservative groups, their corporate funders and their political allies to discredit and dismantle the collective power of workers.
Continue reading Friedrichs Case, Unions and the Public Sector