The Supreme Court may rule against the union ‘fair share service fee’....we are talking about the case, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, a lawsuit that could possibly have major implications for organized labor.
You need to know that an employee of a school district in California that is unionized does not have to join the union but at present, the employee is required to pay a ‘fair share service fee’ because the union has a legal obligation to fully represent all assigned bargaining unit employees, members and non-members alike. Non-members pay a fair share fee in the amount of no more than regular union dues. This fee covers the cost of bargaining, implementing and enforcing the contract.
In order to understand this lawsuit, one has to have the history behind it….Abood v Detroit Board of Education, in 1977, established that, while public sector unions could not require members to contribute to non-chargeable spending (what one would consider ‘political’), they could charge all employees for chargeable spending (activities related to ‘collective bargaining, contract administration and grievance adjustment purposes). The plaintiffs argue that all spending by the union is inherently political and mandatory employee contributions to it thus constitute ‘compelled speech’, which is generally prohibited by the first amendment. According to these plaintiffs, the Supreme Court was wrong in Abood when it asserted that the importance of promoting ‘labor peace’ and preventing ‘free rides’ justifies making chargeable dues mandatory.
The union looks at it quite differently….and they feel that this argument is quite flawed. Chargeable dues contributions are a condition of a specific type of employment – they aren’t ‘compelled’ by any reasonable definition of the word. Teachers who dislike this employment condition are perfectly free to seek employment at a non-unionized school. The unions feel that unless the plaintiffs consider all conditions of employment in any profession to be ‘compelled’, which I’m sure they don’t, they can’t logically argue that chargeable dues contributions are.
There is also that political versus non-political issue going on here….corporations hire lobbyists to fight against unions and labor standards and then they have charitable arms that donate to organizations that undermine unions and labor standards while having managers that discourage unionization (both legally and illegally)…these are all overlapping activities and even though hiring lobbyists is the epitome of political, these other activities come under the auspices of ‘politics’ as well.
The organization behind ‘Friedrichs’, the Center for Individual Rights, has strong ties to individuals and groups, like the Koch Brothers and ALEC, who routinely fight against workers’ rights. This lawsuit is considered by many to be part of their efforts. It is not about free speech or constructing sensible policy. It is about undermining organized labor and further diminishing union strength and worker bargaining power.
My personal opinion to all this is that the ‘fair share service fee’ should be a percentage of the union membership dues and it should be placed in a special account that is allocated for contract negotiations, contract administration and any other activity that is not considered ‘political’ by any stretch….this lawsuit would still have been brought for the above noted organizations and their counter parts want unions to basically, well….die…go away….cease to exist…then they can get more money into the hands of the CEO’s and wealthy interest groups. However, I think if there had been an ‘allocation’ of the monies for non-political activities instead of the unions being so ‘greedy’ themselves, the outcome of this lawsuit may be more favorable to the unions than it looks to be at this moment.
If you have any questions on my support of unions or how to manage a union in your organization, please contact Rosanne Bennett at 484-947-7063 or at firstname.lastname@example.org