Reprinted from Campaign For America's Future
After a decades-long effort to place ideologically committed "movement" members in the judicial branch of government, funded by extremely wealthy individuals and their corporations, it looks like the resulting corporate/conservative wing of the Supreme Court is ready to make a ruling that would bankrupt public-employee unions. And clearly already-decimated private-sector unions will be the next target.
The Supreme Court heard oral arguments Monday in the case of Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. In this case the Court is asked to overturn a unanimous 1977 case that said public-employee unions can charge nonmembers a fee to cover the cost of the services the unions are required by law to provide those nonmembers. The fee does not cover political activities of the union, only the cost of services the unions must, by law, provide.
If the corporate/billionaire class gets its way -- and it looks like it will -- the terrible inequality you see in the country today is nothing compared to what's coming. Having grabbed all the income gains since the recession, having wiped out the middle class, having pushed so much to the top that a few families now have more wealth than all of the rest of us combined, now the corporate/billionaire class is coming after the rest of the money in the economy.
The Right-Wing Argument
Conservatives are making the case that any services public-employee unions provide -- such as collective bargaining, administering resulting contracts and representing employees who have grievances under the contracts -- are themselves political. Because unions represent working people, enabling them to band together and collectively bargain, thereby gaining strength to confront those with concentrated wealth and power on a more level playing field, they argue these services are "political" services. And since public-employee unions bargain with the government, they argue that negotiating for better wages is "political" because better wages for public employees "cost taxpayers." Therefore, by their very nature unions are engaging in "political activity." So, they argue, those fees charged to non-members for the services the unions are required by law to provide are "political" services and can't be compelled.
If these fees that cover the costs of those services are struck down, however, the unions will still be required to provide the services. Obviously the purpose of such a ruling would be to bankrupt the unions.
While comments made by justices in oral arguments are not always predictive of what a final ruling would be, the court's conservative majority left the clear impression that a majority of the justices are preparing to rule against the unions.
USA Today said as much in its news story, "Supreme Court seems sure to rule against unions":
"The Supreme Court left little doubt Monday where it stands on forcing teachers and government workers to contribute to public employee unions against their will: It's ready to strike the requirement down.
"The court's more conservative justices sharply criticized the current system in which public employees ... must pay for the cost of collective bargaining, even if they disagree with their unions' demands. The problem, those justices said, is that virtually everything the unions do affects public policy and tax dollars.- Advertisement -
"'Everything that is collectively bargained with the government is within the political sphere, almost by definition,' said Justice Antonin Scalia, seen as the lone conservative who might side with the unions because of past statements."
The New York Times, "Supreme Court Seems Poised to Deal Unions a Major Setback":
"The justices appeared divided along familiar lines during an extended argument over whether government workers who choose not to join unions may nonetheless be required to help pay for collective bargaining. The court's conservative majority appeared ready to say that such compelled financial support violates the First Amendment."
The Washington Post, "Supreme Court majority is critical of compelled public employee union fees":
"A majority of the Supreme Court seemed ready Monday to agree with a group of California teachers who say it violates their First Amendment rights to be forced to pay dues to the state's teachers union.