Spring 2016

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 49 of 59

48 CINEMONTAGE / Q2 2016 compiled by Jeff Burman A case that seemed poised to lower the boom on public unions ended in a 4-4 tie at the Supreme Court at the end of March, delivering a big victory to unions, writes Adam Liptak in The New York Times. When the case was first argued in January, the Court's conservative majority seemed ready to say that forcing public sector workers to support unions they had refused to join violates the First Amendment. But the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February shifted the balance of power in the case, brought by California public schoolteachers who preferred not to join unions and objected to paying for the unions' collective bargaining efforts from which they benefited. A ruling for the teachers' case would have affected millions of government workers and destabilized public sector unions, which would have lost fees from workers who objected to the advocacy positions the unions take and from those who simply opt out of joining while benefiting from the unions' negotiating efforts on their behalf, adds Liptak. Under California law, public employees who decline union membership must pay a "fair share service fee," also known as an "agency fee," generally equivalent to members' dues. The fees are meant to pay for collective bargaining. The case, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, No. 14-915, asked whether such workers must continue to pay for union activities, including negotiating for better wages and benefits. Before Scalia's death, a majority of the justices seemed ready to vote no. The previous lower court ruling on Freidrichs used a 1977 Supreme Court precedent called Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, allowing it to leave intact the requirement that the objecting teachers pay fees. Ultimately, the current Supreme Court upheld the previous mandate and set no new precedent. The decision was hailed by the presidents of five of the nation's largest public sector unions: Eric Heins of the California Teachers Association (CTA), Lily Ekelson Garcia of the National Education Association (NEA), Randi Weingarten of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), Lee Saunders of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Workers (AFSCME), and Mary Kay Henry of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Each union leader cautioned that the fight against groups that seek to weaken unions is not over. Heins said, "Nobody is under the illusion that [Friedrichs] will stop attacks" against public sector unions, emphasizing that corporate interests behind those attacks "have a lot of money." The union leaders said they have and will continue to work together to make their voices heard and educate their members as numerous similar cases wind their way through the courts and various states try to implement "Right to Work" legislation, writes Vin Gurrieri in 360 Law. GA GOVERNOR BOWS TO BOYCOTT THREATS In a victory for gay rights groups, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal in late March said that he would veto a proposal intended to strengthen legal protections for critics of same-sex marriage, write Alan Blinder and Richard Pérez-Peña in The New LABOR MAT TERS Unions Luck Out in Supreme Court Tie Union activists rally outside of the Supreme Court in Washington, DC in January as the Court heard arguments in the Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association case. Photo by Jacquelyn Martin/ Associated Press

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of CineMontage - Spring 2016