WASHINGTON – March 29, 2016 – The U.S. Supreme Court today affirmed that public employers have a compelling interest in having strong and effective collective bargaining. The 4-4 decision in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association 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 Ohio Education Association (OEA) is NEA’s Ohio affiliate.
“We welcome today’s decision,” said OEA President Becky Higgins. “But we’re under no illusion that the threat posed by Friedrichs is over. There are some 30 similar cases making their way through the courts and any one of them could well make its way to the US Supreme Court. All of this underscores the importance of this year’s elections for President and the US Senate, and the resulting ability to fill the current and any future vacancy on the Supreme Court.”
“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 García. “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 the current fair share system is a good compromise and common sense solution. Ohio is a fair share fee state. 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 and OEA member. “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 special interests are using the Supreme Court for political agendas rather than what the court was intended: interpreting and upholding the Constitution.
The Ohio Education Association (ohea.org) represents 122,000 teachers, faculty members and support professionals in Ohio’s public schools, colleges and universities