April 01, 2016

Court won't vote to weaken unions

On March 29, the U.S. Supreme Court in a 4-4 ruling on Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association left standing nearly four decades of precedent and sound law that has worked for public employers and working people alike.

This decision marks a significant defeat for the super-rich special interests behind the case who want to hijack our economy, our democracy, and our courts. Millions of teachers, correctional officers, sanitation workers, nurses, firefighters, and other public service workers will continue to be able to band together in a union in order to speak up for one another, improve their communities, and hold the wealthy and powerful accountable.

In seeking to outlaw Fair Share fees and require unions to represent employees who refuse to contribute toward the cost of that representation, the forces behind the Freidrichs challenge are trying to drastically weaken the role of the unions in the public sector.

“The Constitution, the law, and the facts are on our side,” said Lee Saunders, president of AFSCME. “We remain confident that we will continue to prevail against the onslaught of baseless litigation from those focused on trying to silence working people in order to benefit themselves at the expense of the rest of us.”

Oral arguments in the case were heard in January and, based on the questioning there, most analysts believed the Court’s decision would deal a giant blow to public employees and their unions. But after the death of conservative U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, the prospects changed significantly.

The Court’s divided decision in late March means this concerted effort to undermine collective bargaining has failed—for now.

“AFSCME members are more resolved than ever to band together and stand up to future attempts to silence the voices of working families, “said Saunders. Public service workers are more motivated than ever to step up, get involved, and organize. It’s never been clearer that our most basic rights are at stake.”

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