New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced Sunday he will be leading a 20 state coalition against a U.S. Supreme Court case that threatens to end forced union dues for all public sector employees.
Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association has the potential to overturn decades worth of labor law. Rebecca Friedrichs and nine other teachers involved argue being forced to pay union dues violates their First Amendment rights. The coalition of 20 states, plus the District of Columbia, is urging the Supreme Court to not side with the teachers.
“The right to organize is a fundamental right for American workers,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “Unions go hand-in-hand with a strong middle class.”
Since the teachers are public employees a win means all government workers could potentially be granted right-to-work privileges. The policy, which has passed in 25 states, bans mandatory union dues or fees as a condition of employment. As part of its opposition, the coalition plans to submit an amicus brief to the court.
“Organizing gives workers the power to lift themselves out of poverty and build a better future,” Schneiderman continued. “The Supreme Court should follow settled precedent and allow states like New York to manage our own labor relations to achieve labor peace and government efficiency and to continue our long tradition of support for workers.”
Amicus briefs allow outside parties to make personal or expert views known to the court. The brief is requesting the justices uphold the 1977 decision in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education. Though it is illegal to force workers to join a union, the previous decision meant unions can force nonmembers pay what is known as a fair-share fee.
The fee is meant to cover the cost of representing employees in a single collective bargaining unit. If the majority of a workplace votes in a union, all nonunion workers must pay the fair-share fee. Activities outside of the cost of representation, like politics, cannot be included in the fee.
Besides New York, other states involved in the coalition are Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington.
It all started when Friedrichs, while teaching out of Buena Park, Calif., tried to leave her union. She felt it benefited its members at the expense of the students. Though she could leave and forfeit most union benefits, she was still forced to continue paying into it.
It was in June when the Supreme Court agreed to hear the Friedrichs case. To the teachers and their supporters, the case could mean the end of laws that restrict worker freedom. To opponents, however, unions are what gives workers a voice and limiting their power will adversely impact the ability of workers to advocate for their workplace rights.
Supporters are optimistic the court will side with Friedrichs given recent decisions. Last year in the case Harris v. Quinn the court ruled Illinois state homecare workers could not be forced to pay union dues.
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