The U.S. Supreme Court said last week that they will revisit an issue many thought was no longer on the table. The court said they will consider limiting the ability of government employee unions to collect fees (or dues) from non-union members.
In the case of Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, a group of California teachers claim that it violates their First Amendment rights to have to pay any fees to the California Teachers Association if they don’t agree with their position and don’t want to join the union.
Union officials are afraid of the Supreme Court overturning a 38-year-old legal precedent that could threaten and weaken union membership and power.
The 1977 case of Abood v. Detroit Board of Education ruled that unions can require non-union members to pay fees for bargaining costs as long as the fees didn’t go to anything political. Currently, public employees in half the states in the U.S. are required to pay what’s known as “fair share” fees if they’re represented by a union. It doesn’t matter if they’re not a member.
In a joint statement released by National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen Garcia, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, CTA President Eric C. Heins, AFSCME President Lee Saunders and SEIU President Mary Kay Henry, the leaders talked about continued attempts to disrupt and weaken unions.
“We are disappointed that at a time when big corporations and the wealthy few are rewriting the rules in their favor, knocking American families and our entire economy off balance, the Supreme Court has chosen to take a case that threatens the fundamental promise of America—that if you work hard and play by the rules, you should be able to provide for your family and live a decent life,” read the statement. “The Supreme Court is revisiting decisions that have made it possible for people to stick together for a voice at work and in their communities—decisions that have stood for more than 35 years—and that have allowed people to work together for better public services and vibrant communities.”
The news of the case made its way to New York City as well. DC 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido expressed disappointment at what he called another attempt to destroy what’s keeping the American middle class together.
“In 1977, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously upheld the right of public employee unions to operate as they do today,” said Garrido in a statement. “Now, when economic inequality is the worst we’ve seen since the Great Depression, deep-pocketed forces have been using state legislatures and the courts to bust unions, which are the best line of defense for working-class families.
“It is troubling to see the Supreme Court revisit decisions that make it possible for hardworking men and women to come together for a voice in the workplace and in their communities,” Garrido concluded.