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Split Decision at Supreme Court Protects Public Sector Unions

Split Decision at Supreme Court Protects Public Sector Unions

protest in favor of unions at Supreme Court

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court announced that it was equally divided 4-4 in the case Friedricks v. California Teachers Association. This split at the High Court affirms the decision made by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, allowing public sector unions to continue to assess fair share fees to its members to support non-political union activity. This decision protects the viability of many public sector unions that could have been substantially weakened if fair share fees were declared unconstitutional. The RAC signed on to an amicus brief submitted by the National Women’s Law Center explaining that weakening unions hurts women, people of color and others.

Unions have always been the driving force behind the improving conditions of American workers. The Center for American Progress reports that members of unions earn 13.6% higher wages than their non-union counterparts. In 2012, union members were 28.2% more likely to be covered by employer health insurance and nearly 54% more likely to receive a pension. The Economic Policy Institute shows that union workers receive 26% more vacation time and 14% total paid leave time. Simply put, unions are good for workers.

And unions depend on “fair share” fees in order to provide these important benefits. In 23 states and the District of Columbia, nine million public sector employees pay these dues to their union. When these fees become optional, unions end up with less money and become less effective advocates for employees. Also, while some employees will decide not to support the union, all benefit from their work. Fair share fees are fair. They provide an equitable pathway for all workers to contribute to improving their own working conditions.

Jewish tradition teaches, “You shall not abuse a needy and destitute laborer, whether a fellow Israelite or a stranger in one of the communities of your land,” (Deuteronomy 24:14). When we create the conditions for labor unions to thrive, we secure institutions that have fought for worker’s wages for much of American history. Unions provide workers the organization by which they can stand up with dignity and demand the fair treatment they deserve. It is incumbent on us, to stand up for a labor system that supports strong unions that can fight for these fair conditions. The future of public sector unions may be at stake in the outcome of this decision, and this will have important ramifications for how we as a society treat low wage workers

Visit the RAC’s Labor page to follow the latest updates. We can also enhance the conditions of low wage workers by ensuring those who work full time can earn enough money to support their families. Urge Congress to Pass the Raise the Wage Act (H.R. 2150/ S. 1150), legislation that would raise the federal minimum wage to $12 by 2021. 

Tyler Dratch is the Torah, text, and tradition Coordinator at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (the RAC) and a rabbinical student at Hebrew College in Newton, MA.

Tyler Dratch

Published: 3/30/2016