War on Workers, Part 1: US Supreme Court unsympathetic to unions in ‘Friedrichs’

On Monday this week, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) heard arguments in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, a case that will have vast implications for the labor movement no matter how it’s decided. The court is expected to issue its decision in June.

On one hand, Friedrichs could reaffirm the right of unions to collect fair share fees from those they are still required to represent; on the other hand, it could cripple organized labor financially. As Capital & Main, Salon, the New York Times, and many others have noted (see In Solidarity below), Friedrichs is nothing more than a naked assault by corporate interests intended to destroy the ability of “public-sector unions, the last major bastion of unionized workers in America” to fight back against corporate power.

To make their case, the corporate-funded plaintiffs rely on a reading of the First Amendment so twisted it ought to get a fantasy fiction award, not become the law of the land. And yet, a majority of justices seemed sympathetic to it.

Because of the importance of Friedrichs, In Solidarity is devoted this week to the case … and what some unions are already doing to fight back in a post-Friedrichs world.

Morning Shift: “Friedrichs Goes To Court”

Labor leaders are feeling alternately defiant and resigned as the Supreme Court prepares to hear oral arguments today in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association … .

In an interview with former Obama adviser David Axelrod last week, SEIU President Mary Kay Henry said a ruling against the unions was a certainty. The damage? “By next summer, we’re going to lose another 2 million because of a Supreme Court case for the public sector where public sector workers’ organizations will no longer be allowed to have union shops,” Henry said. “Everyone will be a voluntary member. And I think that means another chunk of the movement will be gone.”

SCOTUS: Official Page on Friedrichs v. CTA

SEIU: An SEIU member explains why he went to Washington to stand outside the Supreme Court building

Share this SEIU video that explains the attack happening on working families and how we are fighting back.

Here is one early report on how the arguments went:

NY Times: “Supreme Court Seems Poised to Deal Unions a Major Setback”

The Supreme Court seemed poised on Monday to deliver a severe blow to organized labor.

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 best hope for a victory for the unions had rested with Justice Antonin Scalia, who has written and said things sympathetic to their position. But he was consistently hostile on Monday.

“The problem is that everything that is bargained for with the government is within the political sphere,” he said.

Read: Part 2  |  Part 3  | The View from California

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About Randy Lyman

SEIU Local 1021 Communications Dept.

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