In June, the Supreme Court will make an important decision regarding unionism when it rules on Friedrichs vs. the California Teachers Association. The case stands to reverse a 40-year precedent established in the 1977 case
of Abood vs. the Detroit Board of Education. That ruling established public-sector unions’ right to collect “fair-share fees” from all members of a bargaining unit when it is covered by and benefits from a collective bargaining agreement.
If the Friedrichs challenge is upheld, unions in the 22 states where agency shop or fair-share fee laws exist could lose 30 to 50 percent of their revenue. In 2011, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and his gang ended the agency shop in that state, and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) membership plunged from 68,000 to 12,000.
Some unions are fighting back, stepping up to educate and organize their members about Friedrichs. The San Francisco Central Labor Council and the Portland Oregon Northwest Labor Council have passed resolutions calling for a National Day to Protest Friedrichs and Defend Workers Right to Organize, with a National March on the Supreme Court planned for May 1. NWU/UAW 1981 is committed to supporting workers right to organize and seek representation.
When public sector unions are deprived of their capacity to fight anti-union legislation, or to advocate for improving public services, workers lose. We also lose the ability to stand up to right wing forces such as Koch Inc., Walmart, and the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, who fund anti-union, state-based legislation and anti-worker organizations, such as the so-called Freedom Foundation.
Fernando Gapasin, PhD, is an author, life-long labor activist, and NWU member in Oregon.