April 4, 2016

Supreme Court decision upholds union rights

United States Supreme Court

Miles Conway is the Communications Director for AFSCME Council 18.

On Tuesday, March 29, 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court sided with working people and against the wealthy special interests behind the Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association case.

afscme_council_18Friedrichs was an attempt to restrict our rights to join together through our union so that we are able speak up for one another, improve our communities, our careers, and hold the powerful accountable.

Had the ruling gone against labor, the ability and right of public employees and employers to sit down, negotiate and agree to a union security clause would’ve been made illegal overnight. Union security clauses, or “fair-share” provisions are legal today, and must be mutually agreed to by the union workers and the bosses. When in place, they require every union represented employee to pay a fair share in union dues. Fair share dues can only be used for administering and defending the union contract which every worker (union member or not) benefit from at their job.

Corporate forces behind this case thought they could use the Supreme Court for a political attack and they badly miscalculated. The attack motivated hundreds of thousands of AFSCME members to not only recommit to their union — but to ensure the Supreme Court doesn’t become a tool for wealthy special interests.

Governor Martinez and New Mexico’s Republican lawmakers have pledged to continue championing these dangerous, divisive, and scientifically unsound pieces of legislation at the state level which would make fair-share provisions illegal, exactly as the Friedrichs case threatened to do. Our Governor argues in favor of these laws by saying it is “political ideology” which informs and drives every aspect of union advocacy.

In September 2015, Governor Martinez used the term “political ideology” 18 times to argue against the constitutionality of fair-share provisions in her Friedrichs Amicus Brief to the U.S. Supreme Court.

We refute the argument that it is “political ideology” to advocate for enough teachers in the classroom. It is not ideology when workers fight through their union to ensure adequate staffing levels inside state prisons which keep the officers, inmates, and the public safe. It is simply sound research that informs Labor’s advocacy and allows us to determine where the floor lies so that public services can be delivered safely and efficiently by the workers.

In the wake of Friedrichs’ defeat, wealthy special interest groups have already cued up dozens of carbon-copy cases, ready for when a ninth Supreme Court Justice is seated. Whether you buy-in to the anti-union Friedrichs argument or not, the evidence on the effects of these laws is well established; they drive down wages, make workplaces less safe, and consolidate profits among top tier CEOs. It is these obscene profits which manufactures and conjures the political will to oppose a pro-worker agenda.

Our country, and New Mexico should not be striving to win a race for the bottom. We should impress upon our elected leaders a duty to assume greater responsibility for all workers of the world by decreasing, not championing, a path toward income inequality and poverty work.