Supreme Court Reaffirms Collective Bargaining in Landmark Case
Stripping public employees of their voices ‘is not what our country needs’
The U.S. Supreme Court delivered its decision in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association March 29, affirming that public employers have a compelling interest in having strong and effective collective bargaining. The 4-4 decision leaves intact the sound law of Abood v. Detroit Board of Education that has been working for nearly four decades.
At issue in Friedrichs was whether non-union members could share the wages, benefits and protections negotiated in a collectively bargained contract without needing to pay their fair share for the cost of those negotiations. The case was brought by the Center for Individual Rights, an organization funded by corporate special interests that are pushing their own agenda. The National Education Association (NEA), the nation’s largest union with more than 3 million members, and the California Teachers Association, are two of the union respondents in the case.
“The U.S. Supreme Court today rejected a political ploy to silence public employees like teachers, school bus drivers, cafeteria workers, higher education faculty and other educators to work together to shape their profession,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García. “In Friedrichs, the court saw through the political attacks on the workplace rights of teachers, educators and other public employees. This decision recognizes that stripping public employees of their voices in the workplace is not what our country needs.”
The case was thinly veiled attempt to weaken collective bargaining and silence educators’ voices. In response, hundreds of amici curiae or “friends of the court” briefs weighed in to support the union respondents. Twenty-one states, dozens of cities, nearly 50 Republican lawmakers, school districts and public hospitals rose in support of the value fair share fees provide in terms of the effective management of public services. During oral arguments, lawyers for the respondents argued that current fair share system is a good compromise and common sense solution. The court’s decision left that system in place nationwide.
California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski said the Supreme Court decision upholding lower court rulings that educators and other public servants have the right to a strong union in the workplace, “is a momentous victory for working people. The Court rightly upheld 40 years of precedent, rejecting the attacks by deep-pocketed corporate special interests that were the driving force behind the Friedrichs case. While this is an important win for workers, we know the fight isn’t over. Unions will continue the important work of organizing and mobilizing to beat back these attacks while aggressively pursuing real, lasting gains for workers that open up a path to the American Dream for everyone.”
The America Works Together coalition of organizations and unions—including the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees, American Federation of Teachers, California Teachers Association, Service Employees International Union, NEA and the AFL-CIO—issued a statement noting that, “… the Supreme Court left standing nearly four decades of precedent and sound law that has worked for public employers and working people alike. This marks a significant defeat for the wealthy special interests who want to hijack our economy, our democracy, and even the United States Supreme Court. Millions of teachers, 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.”
The coalition noted that the decision “sends a strong message to our opponents that the Supreme Court is not open to do the business of right wing organizations seeking to win through judicial decree what they have been unable to win through the democratic process. Our courts should be reserved for legal disputes, not political agendas. This case provides a vivid illustration of what’s at stake when it comes to the Supreme Court. That is why the same wealthy special interests who manufactured this attack on working people are also trying to prevent President Obama from fulfilling his constitutional responsibility to fill the vacancy on the Court. It’s time for conservatives to stop playing games with the Supreme Court.”