Why dismantling ‘Fair Share’ union dues is bad for America

What are the implications of Friedrichs vs. CTA?

  • This ruling can single handedly change the political landscape of unions in the public education system
  • This Supreme Court case can have costly implications by weakening public education employers to collectively bargain
  • History has shown that the attack on unions since the late 1970’s has caused a huge income disparity between the super-rich and the disappearing middle class

The oral arguments for Friedrichs vs. California Teachers Association have already started in the Supreme Court. This ruling can single handedly change the political landscape of unions in the public education system.

Ten California schoolteachers have decided that they do not want to be part of a union, and they feel that the “fair share fees” goes against their First Amendment rights. This is a hotly contested issue, and many feel that this is another attempt to demonize and weaken the labor movement in the United States.

This Supreme Court case can have costly implications by weakening public education employers to collectively bargain, and strike another blow to the overall labor movement in the United States.

COLLECTIVELY BARGAIN

Rebecca Friedrichs, lead plaintiff in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association

Rebecca Friedrichs, lead plaintiff in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association

The idea of collectively bargaining for a contract implies that you have strength in numbers. The purpose of the AFL-CIO (and on a smaller scale the CTA) is to unite all working class people, so they can acquire a livable wage. This requires solidarity and is the only viable option to acquire certain rights such as affordable healthcare, wage increases, and safe working conditions.

These ten California schoolteachers believe that their union dues are against their First Amendment rights because they are being used in political capacities that go against their religious beliefs. One of these schoolteachers is a math instructor called Harlan Elrich. He and nine other teachers believe that they should not have to pay their union dues, because the union is endorsing certain candidates and policies that go against their beliefs.

The problem with this argument is that in 1977 the Supreme Court ruled in Abood vs. Detroit Board of Education that public employees that didn’t want to join their union still had to pay “fair share fees,” and they would get reimbursed if the union saw some of their dues go to political initiatives. Mr. Elrich did receive a refund for those activities. This case by these ten teachers have been funded by the Center for Individual Rights, which is a libertarian group founded on conservative principles.

OVERALL DAMAGE TO THE LABOR MOVEMENT

Mr. Elrich argues that he is a good enough teacher for him to negotiate his own wages with a specific public school. If this were the case, all public school teachers would not have to scratch and claw for their rights every time their contract was up for negotiations.

History has shown that the attack on unions since the late 1970’s has caused a huge income disparity between the super-rich and the disappearing middle class. The “fair share fees” provides an important compromise that was upheld by the courts in 1977.

READ: Mandatory Union Fees Getting Hard Look by Supreme Court l NY Times

Public school educators have one of the most important and under-appreciated jobs in all of America. They shape and mold the future generations of this country. Being able to unionize offers them the opportunity to collectively bargain for wage increases, appropriate class sizes, and to be united in their fight. Middle class Americans have seen their wages decrease for the past thirty years and it is no coincidence that the decline of unions has affected their salaries and way of life.

 

About the author

George Doctorian graduated Magna Cum laude from Cal Poly Pomona in 2014 and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and a minor in American History. His area of concentration is Middle Eastern Relations and public administration. He is currently an administrative assistant at Orange County Federation of Labor (AFL-CIO). He plans to continue his education at Cal Poly Pomona to obtain his master’s degree in public administration.

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