March 30, 2016

U.S. Supreme Court decision upholds collective bargaining rights

The U.S. Supreme Court issued a 4-4 decision in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association on March 29, ensuring that labor unions like PSEA can still collect "fair share" fees from non-members who get the benefits of union-negotiated contracts.

The decision upholds current law and affirms that public employers have a compelling interest in having strong and effective collective bargaining.

"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 who 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."

PSEA President Jerry Oleksiak praised the Friedrichs decision as a victory for working people.

"This case is about basic fairness; that's why it's called fair share," said Oleksiak. "Collective bargaining rights empower educators, support professionals, and all school employees to speak up for their students, their schools, and their professions. This ruling reaffirms that it is in the best interest of our communities for educators to have a strong voice on the job."

About the case 
At issue in Friedrichs was whether non-union members could refuse to pay "fair share" fees.

Under federal and state laws, non-union members can be charged a fee for their fair share of benefits and representation they receive under collective bargaining contracts. In Pennsylvania and 22 other states, unions are required to provide these services to all employees in a collective bargaining unit, including non-members. The fee is lower than full union dues.

The 4-4 decision affirms a lower court ruling that upheld unions' right to charge fair share fees.

An attack on public employees 
The case was a thinly-veiled attempt to weaken collective bargaining.

In response, states, cities, school districts, hospitals, and nearly 50 Republican lawmakers across the country, including state Rep. Gene DiGirolamo (R-Bucks), filed hundreds of amici curiae or "friends of the court" briefs to support unions, speaking in favor of fair share fees and the value they provide in the effective management of public services. During oral arguments, lawyers for union interests argued that the current fair share system is a good compromise and common-sense solution.

The Supreme Court's decision in Friedrichs provides an important victory for public employees, but as PSEA and NEA anticipate more attacks on fair share at national and state levels, organizing will remain a top priority for our Association.





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