Supreme Court Case Threatens Workers' Rights

June 30, 2015 - Labor union activists across the country are expressing disappointment with the U.S. Supreme Court's decision today to hear arguments in a case challenging fees that support wage increases and benefits for non-member workers.

A majority agreed to take up Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association (CTA), which endangers the legal precedent allowing "fair share" fees to support public sector unions' collective bargaining costs.

"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," American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) President Lee Saunders, AFT President Randi Weingarten, National Education Association (NEA) President Lily Eskelsen García, California Teachers Association President Eric C. Heins, and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) President Mary Kay Henry said in a joint statement.

The legal precedent at stake in Friedrichs is the 1977 Supreme Court decision in the case of Abood v. Detroit Board of Education. The ruling found that fair share agreements were in fact Constitutional so long as non-member fees were devoted to collective bargaining and contract administration expenses.

Labor leaders today added, "when people come together in a union, they can help make sure that our communities have jobs that support our families. It means teachers can stand up for their students. First responders can push for critical equipment to protect us. And social workers can advocate effectively for children's safety.

"America can't build a strong future if people can't come together to improve their work and their families' futures. Moms and dads across the country have been standing up in the thousands to call for higher wages and unions. We hope the Supreme Court heeds their voices."

Here's what AFSCME President Lee Saunders told Council 4 conference delegates back in April:

The details of the Friedrichs lawsuit track closely with the Supreme Court's 2014 Harris v. Quinn decision, in which the majority issued a limited ruling against assessing fair share fees. Legal analysts say Friedrichs appears to have been brought specifically to expand that decision and force millions of public employees into a so-called "right-to-work" model.

The high court's grant of the petition in Friedrichs means briefs will be issued and the case will be argued in the Supreme Court this fall. A decision is expected by June 30, 2016.