Supreme Court Reaffirms Collective Bargaining in Landmark Case
Stripping public employees of their voices 'is not what our country needs'
March 29, 2016
WASHINGTON—The U.S. Supreme Court today delivered its decision in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, affirming that public employers have a compelling interest in having strong and effective collective bargaining. The 4-4 decision leaves intact the sound law of Abood v. Detroit Board of Education that has been working for nearly four decades.
At issue in Friedrichs was whether non-union members could share the wages, benefits and protections negotiated in a collectively bargained contract without needing to pay their fair share for the cost of those negotiations. The case was brought by the Center for Individual Rights, an organization funded by corporate special interests that are pushing their own agenda. The National Education Association, the nation's largest union with more than 3 million members, and the California Teachers Association, are two of the union respondents in the case in addition to the state of California.
"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 to work together to shape their profession," said NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia. "In Friedrichs, the court saw through the political attacks on the workplace rights of teachers, educators and other public employees. This decision recognizes that stripping public employees of their voices in the workplace is not what our country needs."
The case was thinly veiled attempt to weaken collective bargaining and silence educators' voices. In response, hundreds of amici curiae or "friends of the court" briefs weighed in to support the union respondents. Twenty-one states, dozens of cities, nearly 50 Republican lawmakers, school districts and public hospitals rose in support of the value fair share fees provide in terms of the effective management of public services. During oral arguments, lawyers for the respondents argued that current fair share system is a good compromise and common sense solution. The court's decision today left that system in place nationwide.
"I'm thrilled millions of educators like me can continue to work together through their unions to advocate for the best teaching and learning conditions of their students," said HaSheen Wilson, a network administrator at Youngstown State University in Ohio. "In an era when the rich just get richer while the poor seem to fall through the cracks, we need to come together and speak out for change — whether it's smaller class sizes, training for educators, fair pay and benefits, healthcare or safer work environments."
The Friedrichs case provided a vivid illustration of what's at stake when it comes to the highest court in the land. It also was an example of how corporations are using the Supreme Court for political agendas rather than what the court was intended: interpreting and upholding the Constitution.
"Collective bargaining rights allow educators, like me, to speak up for their students on important issues such as class sizes and high-stakes standardized tests," said CTA President Eric C. Heins. "Today's ruling by the Supreme Court reaffirms that it is in the best interest of our students and our communities for educators to have a strong voice on the job."
For classroom teachers like Reagan Duncan, today's Supreme Court decision is a victory for working people.
"Through negotiations between my union and the school district, we were able to secure smaller class sizes for our students," said Duncan, who teaches kindergarten and first grade at Maryland Elementary School in Vista, Calif. "Smaller class sizes help teachers focus on each student's individualized needs and allow for more one-on-one attention. Parents often thank us for being their advocates in securing classes that allow their children to learn freely and to love what they are learning."